ROCKVILLE, Md., May 2, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More people have health care coverage, have a usual place to go for medical care and can more easily afford medical bills after the Affordable Care Act's provisions have taken effect, according to a report released today by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The report finds that the rate of uninsured Americans under age 65 decreased from 18 percent to 10 percent. For 18- to 29-year-olds, the uninsured rate declined even further – falling by more than half, from 31 percent to 15 percent. Among poor people ages 18-64, the uninsured rate fell from 44 percent to 25 percent. Substantial gains in health care coverage also were found for Hispanic and black adults ages 18-64.
The report also shows that more people had a usual place to go for medical care. The percentage of people with a usual place to go for medical care increased overall for blacks and Hispanics. Hispanics showed the biggest gains in this measure, climbing from 77 percent in 2010 to 83 percent in the first half of 2015.
The cost of health care coverage also became more affordable as fewer people overall reported having trouble paying medical bills within the past year. Poor people (below the federal poverty level) ages 18-64 saw the greatest benefit, and all racial and ethnic groups showed a decline in payment problems during this period.
"These new data demonstrate that the Affordable Care Act is achieving its goal of helping millions of Americans gain health care coverage, with the most substantial progress shown among young adults and the poor," said AHRQ Deputy Director Sharon B. Arnold, Ph.D.
The AHRQ report, 2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and 5th Anniversary Update on the National Quality Strategy, reflects gains in enrollment in qualified health plans through the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace as well as expanded Medicaid coverage that became available in more than half of the States.
The report features annual trends on more than 250 measures of care quality, access and disparities that cover a broad array of health care services and settings. Overall, the report shows that quality of care is improving, particularly in hospitals, and for measures that are being publicly reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. However, quality of care is still less than optimal overall for many Americans. Disparities related to race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status continue to impact the care that many people receive. For example, the quality of care for blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives was worse than that for whites for about 40 percent of the report's measures.
For the first time, this year's report includes an update on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') National Quality Strategy (NQS) at its 5-year anniversary mark. The NQS priorities are: making care safer, person- and family-centered care, effective communication and care coordination, prevention and treatment of leading causes of morbidity and mortality, health and well-being of communities and care affordability. The report shows progress for all of the priorities, although the extent of progress varies across categories. Established as part of the Affordable Care Act, the NQS is the first-ever national effort backed by legislation to align public- and private-sector stakeholders to achieve better care, healthy people/healthy communities and more affordable care.
HHS recently released "Health, United States, 2015," the 39th annual report card on the nation's health, along with a special feature on racial and ethnic health disparities. Together, this report and the 2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and 5th Anniversary Update on the National Quality Strategy provide the most comprehensive assessment of health, health care and disparities in the United States and track progress of the NQS toward better care, healthy communities and smarter spending.
AHRQ is part of HHS. Its mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work within HHS and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.
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SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality