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Uninsured rate rises for poor children and job hunters

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Efforts to get more Americans into some kind of public or private health insurance program slowed earlier this year, and the uninsured rates for poor children and the unemployed increased.

Managers of the federal government’s National Health Interview Survey program have documented the slump in health coverage expansion in a new summary of results from the interviews conducted from January through March.

Related: CDC sees more health insurance, and more asthma attacks

The Affordable Care Act powered big drops in the U.S. uninsured rate in 2014 and 2015, by providing cash states could use to expand their Medicaid programs, changing major medical insurance underwriting and pricing rules, and starting the health insurance premium tax credit subsidy program for moderate-income purchasers of commercial health coverage.

The overall uninsured rate for people under age 65 continued to improve this year, but not as quickly as it has in the past few years.

The overall uninsured rate for people under 65 fell to 10 percent, from 10.5 percent. That’s the lowest uninsured rate the National Health Interview Survey team has recorded.

The percentage of people under 65 who had private coverage, including private coverage purchased through an Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange, increased to 66 percent, from 65.6 percent.

But the 0.5-percentage-point drop in the overall uninsured rate for people under 65 between 2015 and this year is much smaller than the 2.8-percentage-point drop between 2014 and 2015, or the 3.3-percentage-point drop between 2013 and 2014.

For children, the uninsured rate actually increased, to 5 percent, from 4.5 percent.

For children in homes with income from 100 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the uninsured rate rose to 7.7 percent, from 6.7 percent.

For poor children, or those in homes with income below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, the uninsured rate climbed to 6.6 percent, from 4.4 percent.

The uninsured rate also started to move in the wrong direction for unemployed people: Their uninsured rate increased to 33.1 percent, up from 29 percent in early 2015.

That’s still down sharply from an uninsured rate of 46.4 percent for unemployed people in early 2014.

That increase may be bad news for sellers of individual health coverage.

The percentage of unemployed people who had government plan coverage stood at 35.8 percent earlier this year, which was about the same as in early 2015. The percentage of unemployed people who had private health coverage in the first quarter fell to 32.1 percent, from 35.6 percent in early 2015. 


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