Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January – March 2017

By Robin A. Cohen, Ph.D., Michael E. Martinez, M.P.H., M.H.S.A., and Emily P. Zammitti, M.P.H.
National Center for Health Statistics, August 2017

This report provides health insurance estimates from the first quarter of the 2017 National Health Interview Survey.

In the first 3 months of 2017, 28.1 million (8.8%) persons of all ages were uninsured at the time of interview — 0.5 million fewer persons than in 2016 (a nonsignificant difference) and 20.5 million fewer persons than in 2010.

In the first 3 months of 2017, among adults aged 18–64, 12.1% were uninsured at the time of interview, 18.9% had public coverage, and 70.5% had private health insurance coverage.

Among adults aged 18-64, 70.5% (138.8 million) were covered by private health insurance plans at the time of interview in the first 3 months of 2017. This includes 4.8% (9.4 million) covered by private health insurance plans obtained through the Health Insurance Marketplace or state-based exchanges.

The percentage of adults who were uninsured for at least part of the past year decreased, from 26.7% (51.0 million) in 2010 to 16.7% (33.0 million) in the first 3 months of 2017. There were no significant changes from 2016 through the first 3 months of 2017.

In the first 3 months of 2017, 42.3% of persons under age 65 with private health insurance were enrolled in an HDHP, including 16.9% who were enrolled in a CDHP (an HDHP with a health savings account [HSA]) and 25.3% who were enrolled in an HDHP without an HSA. The percentage of persons enrolled in an HDHP increased 17 percentage points, from 25.3% in 2010 to 42.3% in the first 3 months of 2017. More recently, the percentage of those enrolled in an HDHP increased, from 39.4% in 2016 to 42.3% in the first 3 months of 2017.…

There are some important observations here on where we stand with insurance coverage in the United States.

* Coverage has stabilized with about 28 million people (8.8%) remaining uninsured. Under our current system of financing health care, those remaining uninsured will be very difficult to cover, even with tweaks to the Affordable Care Act.

* Among adults aged 18–64, 12.1% remain uninsured. That is a particularly difficult population to insure under our current system.

* There has been no significant further improvement in the numbers of individuals who remain uninsured for part of the year – 33 million (16.7%). Intermittent coverage is hazardous to both health and personal finances.

* The percent of individuals under 65 enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) continues to increase – now at 42.3%, an additional 2.9% increase in the last year alone, and 60% of individuals with an HDHP did not have a health savings account to back them up. This trend has continued to increase exposure to medical debt, already a major problem in the United States.

There will be those celebrating the success that these numbers represent when compared to 2010, but there should be no celebration when tens of millions remain exposed to physical suffering and personal debt – problems that could be ameliorated by simply enacting and implementing a single payer national health program.

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