How Many People are Eligible for Obamacare?

There’s so much talk about the new national healthcare law that was implemented a week ago referred to as Obamacare. The official name is the Affordable Care Act or (ACA pronounced ‘ackah) for short. Most of the talk is about who wants it and how the rollout has been met with glitches. But the burning question for me and some colleagues was how many people are eligible.

We’ve heard the President say 40 million Americans would be insured.

Using public use microdata from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, I estimated that about 41 million people in the United States were eligible for Medicaid under the expansion program. These people are relatively easy to identify: they have income less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level and they were not previously eligible for Medicaid. I’m 95% certain that the true number lies between 40 million and 42 million. The number varies by state depending on the size of the population and the income distribution of adults living there.

This does not mean that all of those people will use the program, however. It only means that they have the option to choose it. Only time will tell how many will take it up. I estimated that about 7 percent of the 21 million Americans eligible under the old Medicare system were not enrolled. This group of 41 million who are eligible under the expansion differs from the previous group in one important way that may affect their decision to enroll. They are more likely to be adults as opposed to children.

Take a look at the GAO report for more details and full methodology here.


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