by Catherine Tims
The Affordable Care Act has helped lower premiums for the elderly, and women in particular have benefited from the health law. But why are so many men still uninsured?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time low. According to a recent survey, 20 million more people are signed up for health insurance when compared to six years ago before the ACA came into play.
But that same data tells us there are still 24 million uninsured Americans. Interestingly, a growing percentage of men are uninsured, accounting for 58 percent of the overall uninsured population. Three years ago, that number at 52 percent.
What could cause this disparity? Let’s take a look at the possible reasons why so many American men are still uninsured.
Medicaid expansion – or lack thereof
One of the primary goals of the ACA was to expand Medicaid so more non-elderly adults could access affordable health insurance. Medicaid covers lower-income individuals; however, a wide gap still exists for people whose income is too great for Medicaid but not high enough to afford individual health insurance.
The ACA allowed states to attempt to fill that gap by expanding Medicaid’s upper income limits. But some states have chosen not to expand Medicaid.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of the 2015 Current Population Survey for non-elderly adults, not only are fewer men than women insured overall, but men are also less likely to have Medicaid coverage.
Before the ACA era, Medicaid excluded adults with no dependent children. Do men simply think they can’t get Medicaid without a dependent? Do they see Medicaid as a women-only program? Almost half of all the births in this country are accompanied by Medicaid, so it is possible Medicaid is perceived in this light.
No more men-specific rates
Let’s not forget: Before the ACA, insurers were allowed to charge gender-based premiums for health insurance. The difference was justified by the fact that women typically visit the doctor more often.
But now under the ACA, insurers are not allowed to charge women more than men. Due to this new provision of the law, some men may have seen their premiums actually go up after Obamacare went into effect. This increase could have deterred them from getting coverage at all.
Lack of outreach and education
A lack of information may also be responsible for the increase in uninsured men. The Kaiser Family Foundation analysis reports that 44 percent of uninsured men are actually be eligible for some sort of financial assistance under the ACA.
Around half of that 44 percent are eligible for a tax credit to lower the cost of coverage; 50 percent are also eligible for Medicaid. And, specifically, 6 out of 10 uninsured African American men are eligible for a tax credit, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but don’t take advantage of these benefits.
When it comes to uninsured men in this country, the issue appears to be either affordability or lack of education. Do you think the male uninsured population will decrease during the upcoming Open Enrollment Period?