A study by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health revealed that the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, reduced private insurance coverage disparities between Black and white patients.
Campus public health professor and author of the study Lonnie Snowden said his research analyzed a sample of people from various income groups that were eligible for subsidies from the ACA from years before and after the act was implemented. The study found the ACA led to a 9.8% increase in healthcare coverage for Black Americans. This increase brought the rate of insurance coverage from 81.8% of that of white Americans to 91.6% from 2011 to 2018, according to a press release from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
“The ACA targeted health insurance disparity reduction among its aims, and was poised to accomplish this by reducing cost barriers disproportionately affecting African Americans,” Snowden said in an email. “These allowed millions of previously uninsured people to purchase private coverage and closed African American White private coverage disparities.”
While previous studies have observed the effects of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, Snowden said his research was the first peer-reviewed study to examine the role of subsidies on increasing access to private health insurance for Black Americans.
Snowden added he was surprised at the lack of research on this topic, as more Black Americans qualified for subsidies rather than the expanded Medicaid program.
“I cannot fathom why, and find it frustrating, that this issue has received so little attention,” Snowden said in the press release. “In the real world, very many previously uninsured Black people got private coverage who previously were without.”
The ACA established the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014 in order to assist low-income Americans in acquiring insurance, according to the press release. Subsidies lowered the costs of insurance while marketplaces were used for outreach to qualifying individuals and enrollment assistance, Snowden noted.
Snowden said in the email that Black Americans qualified for the “most generous” subsidies; however, he noted many Black and white insurance customers who qualified for subsidies did not utilize them.
Snowden added he is finalizing a grant proposal to further research on this topic to focus on examining how many of the subsidies themselves played a role in reducing coverage disparities compared to the role of marketplace outreach.
“Many people both African American and White did not take advantage of subsidies for purchase of coverage,” Snowden said in the email. “We must better understand how to reach such people.”