Some 3.6 million more Americans had health insurance in 2011 than in the previous year, according to a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report also showed that the number of uninsured dropped by 1.3 million to 48.6 million in 2011, down from a 2010 record high of 49.9 million.
That's good news for the Obama administration. Officials were quick to point out that the majority of the newly-insured benefited from provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). For the first time in a decade, coverage under private insurance remained relatively steady over the year at 55.1 percent. However, both Medicare and Medicaid enrollment increased in 2011 by 0.6 and 1.0 percent respectively.
The Census Bureau report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011noted that roughly 40 percent of the newly insured in the 19-25 year old age group were added to their parents' plans. The rate of insurance coverage for children under 18 showed no statistical difference over the two years.
In a blog post on the Center for American Progress website, Maura Calsyn, Associate Director of Health Policy and Lindsay Rosenthal, Special Assistant for Health Policy, Women’s Health and Rights wrote that "programs that protect health care coverage—especially the Medicaid and Medicare programs that protect health care for our most vulnerable citizens—must be safeguarded as we address our nation’s fiscal challenges".
However, the Heritage Foundation saw the data differently. They cite an "alarming trend of dependence" on government for health insurance. Instead, they propose tax reforms and incentives that would allow people to purchase their own, more affordable insurance on the open market.
The Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare, is a central issue in this November's election. As USA Today explained, Republicans have made repealing the law a priority, preferring a free-market system that includes tax credits, tort reform, and expanded health savings accounts.