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U.S. Data About 2015 ACA Enrollees Shows More Coverage for Young Adults, But Little Improvement for Minority Groups

Health insurance businessAccording to new data recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been making major strides in reducing the number of Americans without healthcare coverage, but in terms of addressing healthcare needs for minority populations, the ACA has failed to provide adequate care.

USA Today cites HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell as stating that around 11.7 million people had enrolled in the health insurance program at the end of this year’s enrollment period (February 22), including more than 4.1 million Americans under the age of 35.

This increase in healthcare coverage was a major goal for the administration behind Healthcare.gov, and it seems that officials are very pleased that more young adults have signed up for health insurance under federal or state plans — just one year ago, the HHS states, 3.3 million adults under 35 had signed up.

Although the overall percentage of young enrollees has actually slightly dropped — from 34% to 35% — HHS officials appear to be pleased that the number of younger enrollees has begun to rise.

This demographic change in enrollment is essential for the success of the entire program, USA Today explains, because young enrollees are needed to “offset costlier and less healthy older enrollees.”

With emergency room visits reaching about 110 million annually — and a large portion of these visits coming from patients who lack health insurance and can’t pay for regular medical treatment — providing insurance and preventative medical treatments for young adults will hopefully allow these enrollees to stay healthier as they age, thus ameliorating the huge difference between covering young adults and elderly Americans.

However, it’s hard to ignore that the ACA hasn’t made such progress with reducing the number of insured individuals and families — regardless of age — in many minority communities. As Modern Healthcare notes, the percentage of Latino enrollees (11%) and Asian enrollees (8%) in last year’s enrollment numbers has remained the same in 2015 enrollment rates. The percentage of African-American enrollees, however, has dropped from 17% in 2014 to 14% this year.

According to HHS officials, it’s likely that these percentages aren’t entirely accurate — over three million enrollees declined to specify ethnicity upon signing up for the ACA, making it likely that the percentage of minority enrollees is actually higher than the data suggests.

As USA Today notes, the HHS hopes that the percentage of both young enrollees and minority enrollees will increase after the second enrollment period for 2015; the federal insurance program has already stated that it will re-open enrollment for 2015 again, between March 15 and April 30, so that consumers have a chance to sign up for health insurance and avoid facing tax penalties.