State-Level Surveillance of Underinsurance and Health Care-Related Financial Burden

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has reduced uninsurance, but underinsurance, health care-related financial burden, and dental uninsurance may not follow suit. Underinsurance is associated with reduced access to care, household debt, and bankruptcy but has been difficult to track without economic data.


We used readily available state-level survey data to build a model that states can adopt to implement surveillance over underinsurance and health care-related financial burden, as well as assess related disparities and health profiles.


The state prevalence of underinsurance and dental uninsurance did not change in the first year of the ACA's individual mandate. Underinsurance was associated with poorer health-related quality-of-life measures: compared with the fully insured, underinsured adults had an adjusted odds ratio of 2.40 (95% CI, 1.71-3.38) of fair or poor general health.


Tracking underinsurance and medical debt can help public health and health care access stakeholders evaluate which mechanisms (deductibles, co-pays, uncovered services, or is proportionately priced health care services and products) are barriers to care and improved health outcomes.

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