SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Seven out of 10 Californians who were uninsured prior to the launch of the Affordable Care Act now have health insurance, a new survey found.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation California Longitudinal Panel survey, 72 percent of Californians who had no insurance in 2013 have health insurance in 2016. The survey also showed that in California, the largest source of health insurance in California was through the state-sponsored program, Medi-Cal.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that two-thirds of people in California still without health insurance in 2016 were Hispanic and that half of the Hispanic population without health insurance were undocumented immigrants. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t include undocumented immigrants.
The study found that immigration status and cost was still a major barrier to coverage in California.
But a national study released in Health Affairs journal this week, conducted by researchers at the Rand Corporation, revealed another impact of the Affordable Care Act and increased access to health insurance coverage: increased access to prescription drugs across the country.
And the Rand Corporation researchers found that out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs decreased with the Affordable Care Act, especially for individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies cannot refuse to cover an individual with a pre-existing condition.
The Rand Corporation study found that “prescription drug use increased sharply for people who got health coverage under the Affordable Care Act” and that out-of-pocket spending dropped significantly.
Individuals who were able to go on the government insurance program for low-income people, Medicaid, filled 79 percent more prescriptions than when they were uninsured and they paid 58 percent less per prescription, according to the Rand study.
On Friday, however, health insurance provider Aetna announced it would stop its participation in the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges in 70 percent of the counties where it sells coverage, leaving one county in Arizona without any insurers under the Affordable Care Act.
Aetna reported more than $430 million in losses since the launch of the health care exchanges, which are online marketplaces set up to facilitate the purchase of health insurance in each state in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
The largest health insurance provider UnitedHealth Group, and Humana, have already announced that they would cut their coverage plans significantly for 2017.
While the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that, by February 2016, 20 million uninsured people gained insurance as a result of coverage expansions, insurers have cited rising costs and fewer customers, especially in rural markets, as a reason for cutting their geographic coverage.
The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that, in California, their survey participants largely reported gains in their financial security and getting their health needs met after being insured.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.