Individuals at risk of losing health insurance with a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act have significantly higher rates of self-reported poor health and are more likely to have certain chronic diseases, according to a research letter published Jan. 20 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey, focusing on the three groups of adults under 65 years who would be most likely to lose their health insurance if the ACA were repealed: those with incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) who purchased insurance through the health insurance exchanges, childless adults with incomes below 138% of the FPL who gained coverage via expanded Medicaid, and Medicaid-enrolled parents or adults in families with children who did not receive disability insurance and whose income was 50%-138% of the FPL.
“Approximately 20 million individuals have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including young adults covered under parental insurance, those purchasing private insurance on exchanges, and those covered through state Medicaid expansion,” wrote Pinar Karaca-Mandic, PhD, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, and her coauthors. “As of mid-2016, 10.4 million individuals had private insurance policies through the exchanges, of whom 84% had incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and received premium tax credits.”
Compared with adults under 65 who had employer-sponsored health insurance, adults in these three groups were significantly more likely to self-report their health as “fair or poor” (JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Jan 20. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9541).
Adults without children and with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level also had a significantly greater incidence of hypertension, coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, or any heart condition, compared with individuals with employer-sponsored insurance.
They were also significantly more likely to have visited a physician 10 or more times or visited the emergency department at least twice in the past year, and to have undergone surgery in the past year.
“Our analysis highlights the socioeconomic vulnerability and rates of chronic diseases and health care utilization of individuals at risk to lose health insurance if the ACA is modified or repealed,” according to Dr. Karaca-Mandic. “These consequences point to the challenges Congress should address before enacting new health care legislation.”
The study was supported by the NIH Early Independence Award. One author declared consulting fees from the pharmaceutical industry, and another declared private sector support through Yale University. No other conflicts of interest were declared.