WASHINGTON -- More than 15 years have passed since this small a share of Americans didn't get medical care they needed because of the cost, a new federal government report reveals.
During the first three months of 2015, 4.4 percent of Americans surveyed said they went without health care at some point in the past 12 months because they couldn't afford it, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research released on Tuesday.
That's the lowest percentage of Americans forgoing health care since 1999, when 4.3 percent of respondents said they abstained from medical care because they couldn't afford it. It's also the first time since 2002 that the number dropped below 5 percent.
Since the late 1990s, more and more Americans didn't get medical care they should have because they couldn't afford it. The problem was at its worst when the share of Americans forgoing health care approached 7 percent in 2009 and 2010, during the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession.
Paychecks and health benefits have returned to workers amid the economic recovery and the shrinking unemployed rate since then. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act has brought the share of U.S. residents without health insurance to historic lows.
Tuesday's CDC survey also found the uninsured rate during the first three months of 2015 has fallen to 9.2 percent -- after hovering around 15 percent for years and reaching a high of 16 percent in 2010.
The uninsured rate in the first quarter of this year is down from more than 14 percent in 2013, the year before the Affordable Care Act benefits became available for the uninsured.
According to the CDC findings, 15.8 million fewer people were uninsured during the first three months of this year than in 2013. The agency released these new data on the uninsured earlier this month. The numbers are consistent with other surveys, including those from Gallup and other organizations.
The CDC report published Tuesday includes data collected for the National Health Interview Survey, which the agency has conducted since 1957. The full findings are due later this year. The agency only included data going back to 1997, because the survey underwent methodological changes that year, which made comparisons to older findings inaccurate.
According to previous reports by the Department of Health and Human Services, 10 million people have purchased health coverage via the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, and more than 11 million additional people are enrolled in Medicaid since the law's coverage expansion took effect in 2014.