Obamacare Is Working, Unless You’re Black

A new survey shows that Obamacare has done a fantastic job of reducing the uninsurance rate — for everybody except blacks.

The share of Americans age 19 to 64 without health insurance fell from 20 percent last summer to 15 percent this spring, according to a telephone survey of 4,425 people from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health-care research group. The number of adults without insurance fell by 9.5 million — a success by any measure, especially considering that we’re still in the early days of exchange enrollment, and about half the states have yet to expand Medicaid.

The drop in uninsurance rates held across almost every demographic group: young and old, male and female, married and unmarried, with children and without. The uninsurance rate for whites fell to 12 percent from 16 percent; for Latinos, it plummeted, to 23 percent from 36 percent. For respondents who reported their race as “mixed” or “other,” the share without insurance was cut almost in half, to 11 percent from 20 percent.

The exception to that trend was blacks. When the Commonwealth Fund conducted a survey from July to September last year, 21 percent of blacks reported being uninsured. This year, in a similar survey conducted from April to June, that level was effectively unchanged, at 20 percent. Blacks were about half as likely as Latinos to be uninsured a year ago; now the rates for the two groups are almost the same.

The Commonwealth report doesn’t offer any theories for why that might be, and it’s hard to come up with any that are entirely satisfying. The answer has nothing to do with knowing about the law: Awareness of the Affordable Care Act’s financial assistance was the same for blacks (62 percent) as Latinos (60 percent). And blacks were more likely than Latinos to be aware of the state insurance exchanges.