New Data Reveals that Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Coverage are Narrowing Under the Affordable Care Act

October 31, 2018

By Elia Gallardo

According to newly released California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) 2017 data, disparities in health care coverage across race and ethnic subgroups have narrowed with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

CHIS is the largest state health survey in the nation and conducts random-dial telephone surveys that asks questions on a wide range of health topics. CHIS is conducted on a continuous basis allowing the survey to generate timely one-year estimates and more than 20,000 Californians — including adults, teenagers and children — are interviewed each year. CHIS provides a detailed picture and year-to-year comparison of the health and health care needs of California’s large and diverse population.

Along with the release of 2017 CHIS data, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Health Care Foundation jointly released an issue brief highlighting coverage trends in California pre-ACA through 2017.

According to the release, before the ACA, the uninsured rate in California hovered around 15.5 percent for those between 0-64 years of age. The 2017 CHIS data shows California’s uninsured rate for the nonelderly population dropped significantly to 8.5 percent. One of the largest drivers of the increase in coverage is Medi-Cal enrollment, which increased from 20 percent of Californians enrolled in 2013 to approximately 30 percent in 2017. The CHIS findings address regional differences in the rate of uninsured within California ranging from a high of 11.6 percent in the Central Coast to a low of 5.7 percent in the Sacramento area.

As indicated in the figure above, California’s Latino population benefited from the implementation of the ACA in 2014, with millions of previously uninsured Latinos gaining coverage; however, the longstanding disparity in the Latino uninsured rate continues. In 2017, California Latinos were significantly more likely to be uninsured than any other racial/ethnic subgroup. The disparity in Latinos accessing health coverage is, in part, attributable to the high uninsured rate among undocumented Latino adults in California. For more information on 2018 policy proposals to expand coverage to the remaining uninsured, see ITUP’s updated publication, California Strategies: Covering California’s Remaining Uninsured and Improving Affordability.