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Covered California releases analysis; income gap factors in health coverage

OW Staff Writer | 5/19/2017, midnight

While the U.S. Senate debates passage of the American Health Care Act, the percentage of adults in Los Angeles County without health insurance has declined to under one million, but disparities persist among low-income Latinos, according to a survey released this month by the county Department of Public Health.

The decline—from 1.7 million adults in 2011 to 750,000 adults in 2015—was seen in both men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, all age groups, and all geographic areas of the county.

A slight decline was also seen among children less than 18 years old, from 5 percent in 2011 to 3.4 percent in 2015, continuing a steady decline since 2002, when 10.1 percent of the county’s children lacked health insurance, the report shows.

“These statistics represent great news for the county,’’ said Dr Barbara Ferrer, director of the county public health agency. “We know that having health insurance coverage is an essential step in ensuring people get the medical care they need, including access to preventive services.”

Despite the favorable trends, large disparities in the uninsured persist in the county. The percentage of adults who were uninsured in 2015 was more than three times higher in small communities in the southern and eastern parts of the county, according to the survey.

The percentage of uninsured was also higher among Latino adults at 17.3 percent than among Asians at 7.3 percent, Whites at 6.4 percent and African American adults at 6.1 percent.

Among Latinos, the percentage of uninsured was higher among those living below the federal poverty line than among those living at or above the poverty level.

The decline in uninsured in the county is consistent with trends reported in California and nationally, and occurred during the time when the Affordable Care Act was being implemented.

Statewide, the implementation included expansion of Medi-Cal to cover previously ineligible adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and private insurance options through Covered California for individuals and families with higher incomes.

“This report shows that we should be working to extend the benefits ofthe ACA, not to repeal it,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Health Agency.

Covered California has released a new analysis that reflects an improved health status of its enrollees from 2016 to 2017. According to the data, California’s risk score (a system used to help shape and inform rate negotiations with its 11 qualified health plans for 2018) dropped from 1.11 last year to 1.09 this year, indicating that the current population is healthier, with respect to chronic conditions, than it was one year ago. In addition, new enrollees this year have about a 16-percent lower mean risk score than renewing enrollees, representing an improvement of four percent between 2016 and 2017.

“We continue to attract a healthy mix of enrollees, and this is further evidence that the individual market in California is stable and strong,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.