Underinsurance before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act: From the Research Involving Outpatient Settings Network (RIOS Net).

Document Type


Publication Date



BACKGROUND: As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is implemented and many uninsured become insured, rates of underinsurance may persist or increase. This study was designed to estimate the rate of underinsurance in primary care safety net clinics serving low income, multiethnic populations in New Mexico.

METHODS: Data were collected from 2 primary care clinics in an urban setting during a 2-week period in 2011 and 2012. Voluntary, anonymous, self-administered surveys were distributed to adult patients waiting to be seen by their doctor. Surveys were available in English and Spanish.

RESULTS: Of those insured, 44% were underinsured. The underinsured comprised higher proportions of patients who were Hispanic, young, and poor; 39% reported fair or poor health, 23% reported that their health suffered from an inability to seek care because of cost, and 53% had either Medicaid or state coverage insurance. Patients with an income of ≤$25,000 were 8 times more likely to be underinsured.

CONCLUSION: A high level of underinsurance was found in these safety net clinics. Because millions of Americans gain health care insurance benefits, monitoring whether the current reform provides adequate health care coverage or whether those with new and existing health care insurance are underinsured is critical.