Apr 21, 2021 - Health

Most uninsured Americans are already eligible for coverage

Data: KFF; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Most uninsured Americans are already eligible for Medicaid or subsidized Affordable Care Act coverage.

Why it matters: One path to universal health coverage would involve signing millions of Americans up for insurance that's already available to them, and some states are pursuing that goal.

By the numbers: After Congress temporarily expanded eligibility for ACA subsidies earlier this year, 63% of uninsured Americans are now eligible for free or subsidized plans, per a KFF analysis.

  • A quarter are eligible for Medicaid or other public plans, and 38% are eligible for ACA tax credits.
  • But there's wide variation by state, with far fewer people eligible for coverage in states that haven't expanded Medicaid.

Driving the news: Maryland, Colorado and Virginia have passed "easy enrollment" laws, which let residents opt into sharing their tax information with their state's exchange. The exchange can then determine whether they're eligible for free or low-cost coverage.

  • “The core intuition is that tax filing is really the best possible moment to find the eligible uninsured and enroll them into coverage," said Stan Dorn, director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA.

Between the lines: "Easy enrollment" moves a step closer to some advocates' ultimate goal — automatically enrolling people who are eligible for free coverage.

  • “If you had automatic enrollment for everybody who has free coverage offered to them, then you could cover half of the uninsured," Dorn said, citing a recent KFF analysis.

What we're watching: "Even without auto-enrollment, I think timing open enrollment to tax season could go a very long way toward reducing the number of uninsured," said KFF's Cynthia Cox.

  • "H&R Block and Turbo Tax systems could be easily programmed to alert uninsured tax filers that they are likely eligible for free or reduced-cost health plans and show them where to go to sign up," she added.
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