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The Huffington Post claims:

More Than 10 Million People Got Insurance Because Of Obamacare, Feds Say The number of Americans without health insurance declined by 10.3 million because of Obamacare enrollment, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Harvard School of Public Health, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

That represents a reduction in the uninsured rate for adults aged 18 to 64 from 21 percent last September to 16.3 percent this April, the HHS analysis concludes.

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However, in a previous article from the Huffington Post it shows historical uninsured rates:

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It appears by the second graph that there's been no change from the historical trend. Have "More Than 10 Million People Got Insurance Because Of Obamacare"?

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The first graph shows a decline between 2013 and 2014, your second graph only goes until 2012. Am I missing something obvious, or is your second graph simply not current enough to show any effect of the Affordable Care Act? –  Fabian Jul 24 at 15:13
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The second graph ends in 2012 according to the label. And the interesting part happens in 2013 and 2014. The graphs are also not showing the same thing, the first one is plotting only a specific age group, so I wouldn't expect a perfect match anyway. –  Fabian Jul 24 at 15:17
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Unless the uninsured rate suddenly jumped 5% in January of 2012, the numbers aren't comparable. Presumably differing methodologies or definitions of what "uninsured" means. –  Compro01 Jul 24 at 15:24
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I think we can assume that if Obamacare's effects didn't include going back in time to retroactively cover people in 2012, it's a complete failure. –  Russell Borogove Jul 24 at 20:38

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The source they list is a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine. The 10.3M number is given there, but there are a few other factors to consider.

Your main concern seems to be about the historical trend. They say this about that:

As compared with the baseline trend, the uninsured rate declined by 5.2 percentage points by the second quarter of 2014, a 26% relative decline from the 2012–2013 period. Combined with 2014 Census estimates of 198 million adults 18 to 64 years of age,19 this corresponds to 10.3 million adults gaining coverage, although depending on the model and confidence intervals, our sensitivity analyses imply a wide range from 7.3 to 17.2 million adults.

This doesn't clearly say what time period/method they use to get the "baseline trend", so it's hard to give a precise figure, but it's clear that they're adjusting for some sort of previous trend.

They also note that the major gains were in demographics consistent with the predicted effects of the law:

The pattern of coverage gains was consistent with the effects of the ACA, with major gains for persons likely to be eligible for expanded Medicaid on the basis of their income and state of residence but smaller and nonsignificant changes for low-income adults in states without Medicaid expansion.

...

Absolute gains were largest among young adults and Hispanics, two groups with high uninsured rates at baseline. State-level estimates of coverage gains were significantly associated with official HHS enrollment statistics, showing that each percentage point of the state population enrolling via the marketplaces was associated with a half-point decline in the uninsured rate.

However, they are careful to point out that the study is not perfect, and in the discussion section they talk about limiting factors, such as:

Nonetheless, the inherent lack of a control group precludes a causal interpretation for these findings, and other unmeasured factors may have contributed to these changes.

In summary, it looks like HuffPo did what most journalists do: Take a single number/soundbite from a paper and report it. There are confounding factors, and the number quoted is jut an estimate, but it's clear they have taken a lot into consideration. It's not just a WAG.

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Some numbers are more directly attributed to the ACA, such as unemployed between ages 19-26, which can now be covered on their parents' plan. I've seen figures of ~1-3M for that alone, but this particular paper doesn't really mention it, and I'm not sure where I saw it before (so no guarantee of accuracy). –  Geobits Jul 24 at 15:18

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