Insurance, physical activity, obesity up; tobacco and skipping care down

Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, there has been a significant decrease in the uninsured rate for Americans of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published an early release of estimates for 15 selected health measures based on data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The early release presents estimates from 1997 through 2013 for comparison. NCHS notes that the estimates will be updated as each new quarter of NHIS data becomes available.

Selected health measures

The early release provided estimates on 15 health measures based on data for 111,682 persons. The 15 measures included in the present report are:

Three of these measures (lack of health insurance coverage, leisure-time physical activity, and current cigarette smoking) are directly related to Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators (see Introducing the Healthy People 2020 initiative, Health Law Daily, January 26, 2015).

Health trends

There are some notable trends in the 15 health measures that the early release focuses on. The number of individuals with health insurance coverage has dropped since 2010, when the ACA (P.L. 111-148) was enacted, with a sharper decrease in 2014, which is the first year the ACA’s individual mandate was in effect. NCHS statistician Robin A. Cohen, an author of the study, told Time Magazine that the drop is “pretty sharp.” There were 36 million uninsured Americans in 2014, according to the study, down from a high of 48.6 million in 2010.

The early release also shows an increase of individuals who have a usual place to go for medical care, and a decrease in those who fail to obtain medical care that they need. Vaccination rates have increased slightly since 1997, while obesity rates have steadily risen as well and cigarette smoking has steadily decreased. Alcohol consumption—percentage of adults aged 18 and over who had at least one heavy drinking day in the past year—has mostly stayed the same, though the early release does show more alcohol consumption among women than in the past.