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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Drexel: Obamacare Relieved Financial Strain for those Close to Poverty Line

The Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — most benefitted those closest to the federal poverty line, a study led by Drexel University researchers shows.

Individuals below or nearest to the poverty line (with incomes up to twice its value) experienced the most significant reductions in health-related financial strain and un-insurance rates between 2011 and 2016 — during which the poverty line stood between $11,000 and $12,000.

“This population, who have historically had high rates of financial strain, had large increases in their rates of insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act expanding Medicaid and establishing health insurance exchanges,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Ryan McKenna, an assistant professor in Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Although the study, published in INQUIRYwas good news, it also gives McKenna and his co-authors some concern due to the present political climate. The current administration and Congress have plainly expressed their desire to replace or even remove the law.

“Given that past — and, likely, future — reform efforts have sought to change the provisions of the ACA, we’re trying to give policymakers a better understanding of who has the most to lose,” McKenna said.

Almost 20 percent of the United States falls into the category of those making an income of twice the poverty line designation or below, those the study found benefitted the most, McKenna pointed out.

Using data from 133,672 adults pulled from the 2011–16 National Health Interview Surveys, McKenna sought to compare the near-poverty line population to those making an income four times greater than it or more, which would be more than $47,000 for an individual in 2016.

The researchers looked at three main areas:


The groups of people below or near the poverty line were more likely to experience poor results related to all of these compared to those well above it.

For example, people earning incomes between 1.25 and two times the poverty line were almost 14 percent more likely to delay medical care because of costs and roughly 17 percent more likely to have problems paying medical bills than the population earning four times the poverty line or more.

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