(Bloomberg View) — The numbers are in: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — Obamacare — reduced the share of Americans without health insurance last year to 10.4 percent, down from 13.3 percent the year before. That represents 8.8 million fewer people who risked financial ruin if they needed significant medical care. Most of the improvement came from people getting coverage through Medicaid or the state insurance exchanges.
The figures put to rest the notion that Obamacare would cause more people to lose coverage than gain it. But U.S. health care is by no means fixed. Three substantial improvements are still needed.
First, the uninsured rate needs to be pushed even lower. The people who’ve signed up for Medicaid or exchange coverage are those who have most wanted insurance; the challenge remains to persuade those who are less motivated or don’t understand their options. That includes the parents of the 4.8 million children who were uninsured last year, as well as the 30.6 percent of high-school dropouts and the 19.9 percent of Hispanics who went without. At the same time, all 50 states need to be persuaded to expand Medicaid.