Before You Can Enroll the Uninsured, You Need to Find Them. Our Updated Data Model Guides the Way.

By William Tomasko

Across the country, the enrollment community is getting ready to connect millions of Americans to health coverage in the third open enrollment period. But first, we need to know where to find those uninsured consumers. That’s why, every year, one of the most important ways we get ready for a new enrollment cycle is to update our data model — a tool built in partnership with Civis Analytics that allows us to predict who has health insurance and who doesn’t.

Nationwide, the model now estimates that the uninsured rate fell substantially in the first two years of the Affordable Care Act — from 16.4 in 2013 to 10.7 percent in 2015 — and it paints a detailed picture of who the uninsured are and where they live.

Today, an article in the New York Times gave a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s updated estimates:

The data used to make this map are unlike any other data about the number and location of the uninsured. They’re based on a complex model that Enroll and Civis undertook using a large survey and tools often used by political campaigns to target likely voters. That strategy allows us to show more detail than is available using more conventional surveys — like these state-level surveys from Gallup — but they also use different assumptions than more conventional polling. The census, which provides the industry gold standard data on the uninsured and where they live, takes a long time to collect and publish data. Last fall, Enroll’s model showed us insurance rates around the country in 2014. The census published 2014 data with a similar level of specificity only this week.

These new estimates give us a better sense of where things stand as we head into the third open enrollment period which begins on Sunday:

“This year it’s more of a state-specific story,” said Ed Coleman, the director of data and analytics at Enroll America, an organization devoted to finding uninsured people and signing them up for insurance. Enroll worked with the data firm Civis Analytics to produce the numbers in our map. “There was a pronounced drop pretty much everywhere last year, and we don’t see that pattern again this time around.”

It’s important to note that our model shows the uninsured rate, not the number of people eligible to enroll in coverage. That means some of those uninsured are likely to be undocumented, in the Medicaid gap, or not eligible for affordable coverage for some other reason.

For more information on what the model found, including state-by-sate trends, check out these slides (and email inquiries@enrollamerica.org with any questions):

We also have brand-new state profiles built off the updated model that you can use to zoom in on local trends and demographic breakdowns, for a more detailed snapshot of changes in the uninsured population in 14 states where Enroll America does much of its on-the-ground organizing. Next week, we’ll share new profiles of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a national interactive map of where the uninsured are.

With open enrollment just three days away, we’re excited for another opportunity to help millions of families get covered and stay covered. If you’re interested in partnering with Enroll America to use data as a guide in your own outreach, click here to learn more and sign up.

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