Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Empathy Counts'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Empathy Counts'" by Rex May.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


A push to improve
bedside manners because pay
might depend on it.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Census: More People Have Health Coverage Even As Poverty Persists

The annual Census Bureau report, which provided 2014 numbers, is considered the gold standard for explaining how the nation is faring in terms of prosperity. The section on insurance coverage points to the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the new insurance marketplaces and expansion of Medicaid that year.

The New York Times: Health Care Gains, But Income Remains Stagnant, The White House Reports
Nearly nine million people gained health insurance last year, lowering the ranks of the uninsured to 10.4 percent of the population. But there was no statistically significant change in income for the typical American household in 2014, the Obama administration said on Wednesday. ... Overall, the new census numbers suggest that one major government program, to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, is working, but that for ordinary Americans, especially the poor, the economic recovery — now into its seventh year — has yet to deliver measurable benefits. (Pear, 9/16)

Los Angeles Times: Poverty Persists But More Have Healthcare
Thanks mostly to the first full-year impact of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the percentage of people without medical coverage fell to 10.4% from 13.3% the previous year. That represents a drop of 8.8 million, to 33 million people who were uninsured for part or all of last year. A decline was expected. Earlier surveys suggested a big increase in health plan enrollment as states expanded Medicaid and millions of Americans signed up for private insurance through new marketplaces created by Obamacare. Every state, racial group and age of individuals saw a decline in the uninsured rate, the Census Bureau said. (Lee, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Many More Americans Now Have Health Insurance
The census report, viewed as a key gauge of American prosperity, underscored how government policy—from expanded health-care coverage to benefits for the poor—has rippled through the lives of many Americans. Weak income growth was especially striking for a year in which employers added the most jobs since 1999 and stock markets hit new highs. The decline in those lacking coverage, driven largely by people receiving Medicaid or buying insurance on their own, was the largest in records that date to 1987. (Timiraos and Radnofsky, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Percentage Of Uninsured In U.S. Dropped In First Year Of Obama’s Health-Care Plan
The data also show the extent to which tens of millions of people remain uninsured, at a time when the law’s opponents are debating its future once President Barack Obama leaves office. Critics can point out that the law is still set to fall well short of its early hopes to extend near-universal coverage. Some have already argued that its coverage gains haven’t justified its price tag (Radnofsky, 9/16)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Number Of Americans Without Health Insurance Falls As Income And Poverty Rate Stay Level
The report, hailed by ACA supporters, is the first that compares the insurance landscape immediately before those changes began and afterwards. At the same time, the nation's official poverty rate stayed level at 14.8 percent, equivalent to 46.7 million people in poverty. A supplemental poverty measure, considered more accurate by many experts, showed the rate at 15.3 percent, similar to 2013. (Goldstein, Guo and Gamio, 9/16)

Kaiser Health News: Nearly 9 Million People Gained Insurance In Health Marketplace’s First Year
[A] change in the way health insurance questions are asked make this year’s report comparable to 2013 but not earlier years. Census officials, however, point out that a different annual survey that has asked health insurance questions consistently show this to be the biggest drop in the uninsured since at least 2008. Others say the sizable increase in Americans with insurance – due in large part to the implementation of the federal health law – is unprecedented since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid 50 years ago. (Rovner, 9/16)

CBS News: Evidence That Obamacare Is Working
While other surveys and polls have recorded improvements in the uninsured rate since the ACA's rollout, the Census data is considered the benchmark for such measures. Still, a significant variation in coverage remains between U.S. states, with generally higher uninsured rates in states that declined to expand Medicaid coverage. Texas, Florida and Mississippi, which are among that group, have uninsured rates of more than 14 percent, among the highest in the country, Census said. The state with the lowest rate of uninsured residents is Massachusetts, at 3.9 percent. (Picchi, 9/16)

6. Texas Uninsured Rate Falls, But State Now Has Largest Number Of People Without Coverage

Meanwhile, Kentucky saw the largest drop in percentage of residents without health insurance between 2013 and 2014. News outlets across the country examine how their states fared in regard to the Census Bureau's data on income and health coverage.

Dallas Morning News: More In Texas Lack Health Insurance Than In Any Other State
Texas, which still has the biggest share of its population uninsured, now has more people without health coverage than any other state. Last year, Texas had just more than 5 million residents without health coverage — eclipsing California, which for many years had the most but saw its number dip below 4.8 million, according to federal figures released Wednesday. One expert cited Democratic-controlled California’s decision to expand Medicaid and heavily promote its own state-run private health insurance marketplace. GOP-led Texas did neither. (Garrett, 9/17)

The Texas Tribune: Texas' Uninsured Rate Dips, Remains Highest In Nation
For the first time in more than a decade, Texas’ uninsured rate dipped below 20 percent, analysts said Wednesday following the release of U.S. Census data. ... More than 1 million Texans signed up for health insurance on the exchange last year, according to federal tallies at the time, but it is unclear how many of those people were previously uninsured. ... The federal survey found 7 percent of Texas’ low-income children, defined as living with incomes below twice the federal poverty level, remain uninsured. (Walters, 9/16)

The Texas Tribune: A Look At How Texas' Uninsured Rate Has Fallen
Some of the most significant drops were in the state's biggest cities. The San Antonio metro area's uninsured rate dropped by nearly 4 points, while in Houston and Dallas, the drop was just over 3 points. Austin was an exception, falling less than 2 percentage points. Disparities persisted among age groups as well. Of young adults ages 19 to 25, the percentage of uninsured Texans fell from nearly 39 percent to 33 percent. The Affordable Care Act allows many people to remain on their parents' insurance plan until they turn 26. Eleven percent of Texas children younger than 18 are uninsured. Among Texans older than 65, that figure is 2 percent. (Walter and McCullough, 9/17)

Louisville Courier-Journal: Report: Ky. Sees Biggest Drop In Uninsured
Kentucky saw the largest drop in percentage of residents who do not have health insurance than any other state between 2013 and 2014, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Kentuckians without health insurance fell by 250,000 in 2014, the report says. And the percent of the state’s population without health insurance dropped from 14.3 percent to 8.5 percent. (Loftus, 9/16)

The Associated Press: Kentucky Leads Nation In Drop Of Uninsured
Kentucky was one of 31 states that chose to increase the number of people eligible to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance in 2013. Since then, Kentucky has added about 400,000 people to its Medicaid program and has been held up as an example by President Barack Obama of the success of his health care law. (Beam, 9/16)

Kaiser Health News: In Colorado, Health Insurance Surges But Cost Still A Concern
On Wednesday, the Census Bureau gave Obamacare some good news: the uninsurance rate in the country dropped to 10.4 percent in 2014, down from 13.3 percent in 2013. Colorado may be doing even better. According to a survey from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute, the number of Coloradans who have health insurance has reached a historic high. When the Affordable Care Act launched two years ago, CHI found that about one in seven of the state’s residents, or 14 percent, were uninsured. Its latest data show that figure is 6.7 percent. (Daley, 9/16)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Health Insurance Enrollment Up Across In Pennsylvania
Fewer Pennsylvanians are going without health insurance as the Affordable Care Act helps push more coverage into struggling communities, federal data show. About 8.5 percent of the state population was uninsured last year, down from 9.7 percent, or roughly 1.2 million people, in 2013, according to an annual report Wednesday from the U.S. Census Bureau. (Smeltz, 9/16)