REPORT: Affordable Care Act Will Help Close Income Gap In Insurance, Health Care Access

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A new study shows that adults in low- to moderate-income families are “more likely to be uninsured, to lack a regular source of health care, and to struggle to get the health care they need compared to those in higher-income families,” according to the Commonwealth Fund. The researchers focused on the vast income gap in health insurance and health care access and concluded that the Affordable Care Act could help close the disparity.

While 57 percent of people in families earning 133 percent of the poverty line (less than $30,000 for a family of four) were uninsured for some time in the past year, and 35 percent had been uninsured for two years or more, just 12 percent of adults in families with incomes above $89,400 for a family of four reported being uninsured during the year. Three percent said they were insured for two years or more.

While adults are often uninsured, programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) step in to insure children. But 31 percent of low-income families and 20 percent of moderate-income families still reported that all or some of their children were uninsured, compared to 12 percent of higher-income families. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act will help close the enormous income divide in health insurance — for children and adults — by expanding coverage:

— The Affordable Care Act has already expanded health insurance to 2.5 million 19-to-25 year-olds, banned lifetime limits on health insurance coverage, created pre-existing condition insurance plans providing health insurance options to those who were often uninsurable, and required insurers to cover preventive care without requiring co-payments.

— But the major provisions of the law to be implemented in 2014 will have the biggest effect on narrowing the income divide, through expanded Medicaid coverage; new health insurance exchanges offering comprehensive coverage and premium tax credits to make coverage affordable; and new rules that will prevent insurers from denying coverage or charging people more based on pre-existing conditions or gender.