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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tracking the Impact of the Affordable Care Act

Guest blog from Associate Editor Elizabeth Mendes

Three major provisions of the Affordable Care Act -- President Obama’s expansive health reform bill signed into law in March 2010 -- are now in effect. Individually, the three provisions, detailed below, are meant to expand healthcare coverage for low-income Americans and for those with pre-existing conditions who are uninsured as well as to help seniors pay for medications.

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index daily tracking allows us to get a read on how quickly these provisions will begin to have an impact on Americans’ self-reported health and wellbeing and to what extent.

April 1, 2010: State Medicaid Expansion

The federal government on April 1 increased matching Medicaid funds available to states to cover more low-income residents. At this point states have the option of taking part in the program, but all states are required to expand their Medicaid programs to cover most non-elderly Americans with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level by 2014.

Next Friday Gallup will publish its 2010 halftime report on the uninsured by state, reviewing findings from January through June of this year. The data can serve as one measurement benchmark for states as they begin to implement their Medicaid expansion programs. Leaders will have one gauge of the effectiveness of their initiatives when Gallup releases complete 2010 uninsured data, encompassing all 12 months of the year, in early 2011.

June 1, 2010: Filling Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole”

The federal government began mailing $250 rebate checks to an estimated four million seniors in June to help them fill a gap in their Medicare prescription drug coverage. Round one was sent out in June, another group of checks was sent out in early July, and the government will continue the once-a-month mailings throughout 2010.

Gallup asks Americans each day if there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to pay for healthcare or medicine that they or their family needed.

We will monitor seniors’ responses in the weeks and months ahead to see if the rebate checks have changed seniors’ perceptions of their ability to afford medication. We will publish our findings in the near future.

July 1, 2010: Transitional Insurance Pool for Uninsured With Pre-Existing Conditions

Under the new law, health insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to or hike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. But this doesn’t go into effect until 2014. In the meantime, the government is setting up transitional insurance pools for Americans who have pre-existing conditions and have been uninsured for at least six months.

Some states will administer the new insurance plans themselves and others will allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to handle the program. In states where HHS is in charge, qualified residents could start enrolling on July 1. Some state-run programs started at the same time and others will be implementing the new plans throughout the summer.

Gallup’s analysis of health insurance data out last week found that as of June, one in six Americans were uninsured, on par with June of 2009 and consistent with monthly readings throughout the past 12 months.

We are tracking the uninsured daily and will watch for any changes in July and report what we find on

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