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High uninsured rates remain despite ACA improvements

Study finds Community Health Centers are essential to ensuring health care access for vulnerable populations
image of medical professional listening to a patient's lungs with a stethoscope in a doctor's office
More than 5 million Americans who receive care at Community Health Centers, or clinics that tailor services to vulnerable populations, remain uninsured. Allison L. Fox, F.N.P., is a practitioner at OHSU's Family Medicine at Richmond clinic in Portland. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Despite significant improvements offered by the Affordable Care Act to remove barriers to health insurance, researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, have determined that more than 5 million Americans who receive care at Community Health Centers, or clinics that tailor services to vulnerable populations, remain uninsured.

Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D.
Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D.

“This finding is significant in that it shows that factors such as health plan affordability, Medicaid eligibility standards and general program understanding are continual barriers to insurance access for the most at-risk populations,” says the study’s lead author Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Furthermore, the recent removal of the ACA’s individual mandate penalty and a shortened enrollment time for marketplace insurance have the potential to increase the number of uninsured individuals in the coming years.

According to Huguet, the high-quality, low-cost services provided by CHCs are essential. Based on electronic health record data compiled from January 2012 to December 2015, the majority of uninsured patients had at least one health condition that would require continuous care.

“To ensure that underinsured individuals receive the health care services they require, it is crucial to lift the remaining barriers to insurance accessibility, while increasing funding for Community Health Centers, our nation’s safety-net,” she says.

Study findings published online in the Annals of Family Medicine.

This work was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01HS024270), the National Cancer Institute (R01CA204267 and R01CA181452), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL136575), both associated with the National Institutes of Health.

The Accelerating Data Value Across a National Community Health Center Network (ADVANCE) is led by the OCHIN Community Health Information Network, in partnership with the Health Choice Network, Fenway Health, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Legacy Health, OHSU, and the Robert Graham Center.

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