Health

Obamacare Helped The Sickest Americans Gain Insurance, Huge Study Confirms

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A new report released Tuesday from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association underscores the need for the Affordable Care Act’s reforms, finding evidence that the health law effectively expanded coverage to America’s most vulnerable citizens.

According to the data, Obamacare’s newest policyholders were more likely to have a variety of significant health problems — in other words, reasons that insurers might have denied them coverage before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

Newly enrolled policyholders were twice as likely to have diabetes, twice as likely to have Hepatitis C, and three times as likely to have HIV. They also had higher instances of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and coronary artery disease. Hospital admission rates were 84 percent higher for these policyholders, and the frequency of their doctor and specialist visits were 26 percent higher.

“It’s no surprise that people who newly gained access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act needed health care. That’s why they were locked out of coverage before,” Ben Wakana, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, remarked.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association study is significant due to the sheer size of claims data analyzed. Since Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are purchased across the country, researchers had access to claims for 4.7 million people. About one-third of those studied had been continuously enrolled since 2013; the others signed up in 2014 or 2015.

The report also found that the influx of sicker, previously uninsured patients into the health insurance system is contributing to a rise in insurance premiums nationwide. The increased need for care is driving insurance costs up, even as many people are receiving better care.

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans now have greater access to private health insurance plans through the law’s new individual marketplaces, as well as protection against insurance companies denying them coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the percentage of uninsured citizens has dropped considerably. Nearly 9 in 10 American adults now have health insurance, and the law has helped to close the health insurance gap between low-income people and wealthier Americans.

Bryan Dewan is an Intern at ThinkProgress.