Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, 2011

By Robin A. Cohen, Ph.D., and Michael E. Martinez, M.P.H., M.H.S.A.
CDC, Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics
June 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is releasing selected estimates of health insurance coverage for the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population based on data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

* In 2011, 46.3 million persons of all ages (15.1%) were uninsured at the time of interview, 58.7 million (19.2%) had been uninsured for at least part of the year prior to interview, and 34.2 million (11.2%) had been uninsured for more than a year at the time of interview.

* In 2011, the percentage of children under age 18 years who were uninsured at the time of interview was 7.0%.

* Among adults aged 19–25, the percentage uninsured at the time of interview decreased from 33.9% (10 million persons) in 2010 to 27.9% (8.4 million) in 2011.

* Among adults aged 19–25, 56.2% were covered by a private plan in 2011, an increase from 2010 (51.0%).

Estimates of enrollment in HDHPs and CDHPs

Based on data from the 2011 NHIS, 29.0% of persons under age 65 with private health insurance were enrolled in an HDHP (high-deductible health plan), including 9.2% who were enrolled in a CDHP (consumer-directed health plan) and 19.9% who were enrolled in an HDHP without a health savings account (HSA). Enrollment in HDHPs increased from 25.3% in 2010 to 29.0% in 2011. There was a significant increase in enrollment in HDHPs without HSAs, and in CDHPs, between 2007 (when NHIS started collecting this information) and 2011.

Based on data from 2011, among persons under age 65 with private health insurance, 26.9% with employment-based coverage were enrolled in an HDHP, compared with 52.4% of those with a private plan that was directly purchased or obtained through means other than employment. The percentage of persons covered by employment-based private plans who were enrolled in HDHPs increased from 15.6% in 2007 to 26.9% in 2011. The percentage of persons covered by directly purchased private health plans who were enrolled in HDHPs increased from 39.2% in 2007 to 52.4% in 2011.

Insurance coverage by poverty status

The percentage of poor children who were uninsured at the time of interview decreased from 1997 through 2011. During the same period, the percentage of poor adults who were uninsured remained relatively stable.

Among children, all poverty status groups experienced an increase in public coverage between 1997 and 2011. However, the largest increase was seen among near poor children, for whom coverage by a public plan increased by 36.5 percentage points during the same period.

The rate of private coverage among near poor children was 25.1 percentage points lower in 2011 than in 1997. Among near poor children the percentage without health insurance and the percentage with private health insurance coverage have declined since 1997, while public coverage has increased. Private coverage generally decreased among near poor adults aged 18–64, from 52.6% in 1997 to 35.4% in 2011, so that the uninsured rate is now higher than the private coverage rate for this population. Private coverage among not poor adults aged 18–64 generally decreased from 1997 through 2011.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/insur201206.pdf

The good news is that the percentage of individuals uninsured at the time of the National Health Interview Survey declined from 16.0% in 2010 to 15.1% in 2011. The improvements were primarily due to an increase in enrollment of children in public programs, and an increase in enrollment of young adults in their parents’ private insurance plans.

If the Affordable Care Act is upheld, we can anticipate a further increase in enrollment in Medicaid. If not, at least public coverage for low-income children should be maintained.

The more alarming news in this report is the increase in high-deductible health plans, both those acquired through employment and especially those purchased in the individual market. The increase in private coverage made possible through the establishment of state insurance exchanges will be in lower-actuarial value plans – primarily high-deductible plans. Also employers are expected to shift more of their plans to high-deductible coverage.

High-deductible plans equate with underinsurance. These plans leave people with health care needs vulnerable to financial barriers to care. With this report, once again we see that underinsurance is becoming the new standard in America. That wouldn’t occur if we were to adopt an improved Medicare for all.