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Survey sees drop in those without health insurance, especially among young adults

About 13 percent of people nationwide did not have health insurance in the first three months of this year -- a decline from the 2013 estimate of uninsured -- with young adults showing the largest drop of those without coverage, a new National Center for Health Statistics survey shows.

The survey for the months of January through March, released Tuesday, found an estimated 41 million people of all ages did not have health insurance. The survey's estimate for all of 2013 found 44.8 million people, or 14.4 percent, were without health insurance.

The largest decrease in the uninsured occurred among 19- to 25-year-olds, whose uninsured rate went from an estimated 26.5 percent in 2013 to 20.9 percent in January through March of this year.

The survey also found that 55.5 million people, or 17.8 percent, had been uninsured for at least part of the year before being interviewed in the first three months of this year, and 29.9 million, or 9.6 percent, had been uninsured for more than a year.

The new survey of health insurance coverage rates provides data after implementation of the health insurance marketplaces and Medicaid expansion, efforts to expand coverage that grew out of the controversial federal Affordable Care Act.

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Among those under age 65, 61.8 percent (165.6 million people) were covered by private health insurance plans at the time they were interviewed in the first three months of this year, including 1.4 percent (3.7 million people) covered by private plans through the new health insurance marketplace or state-based exchanges.

Uninsured adults ages 18 to 64 decreased from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 18.4 percent in the first three months of this year.

Among adults ages 18 to 64 in every poverty-status group, there was a "significant decrease" in the percentage who were uninsured in 2013 and those without coverage in January through March of this year. For example, for those in that age group who were poor or near-poor, the percentage who were uninsured dropped more than 4 percentage points.

For Hispanics under age 65, the percentage of those uninsured declined from 30.3 percent in 2013 to 27.2 percent in the first three months of this year; for non-Hispanic blacks under 65, the percentage of uninsured dropped from 18.9 percent last year to 15.1 percent in January through March. There were no significant changes in coverage for other race and ethnic categories.

Among adults ages 18 to 64 who lacked a high school diploma, 36.3 percent were uninsured in the first three months of the year, three times those in that age group with more than a high school education, at 11.4 percent.

Robin Cohen, a statistician with the center and a co-author of the "National Health Interview Survey Early Release Program," said the agency continuously conducts what she called a point-in-time survey, with an update coming in December that would include six months of data.

"The estimates will get more precise as we get more data," she said.

The estimates for January through March are based on a survey of 27,627 people.

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