Visualizing Health Care Reform

This interactive data map showed who would be eligible for health coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act was the most sweeping reform of the U.S. healthcare system since Medicare, potentially opening a path to care for millions of Americans. How many of them were in Illinois? Who would be eligible for affordable, guaranteed health coverage in 2014, where did these people live, and how would they access coverage? Policymakers, providers, and citizens wanted to know. We created this data-mapping project at Illinois Health Matters to illustrate the potential impact of the ACA on uninsured Illinoisans.

Using 2008-09 data from the American Community Survey, Chicago demographers Rob Paral Associates estimated the number of uninsured eligible for the Medicaid expansion and for discounted ACA marketplace plans. Launched on March 23, 2012 – the second anniversary of ACA enactment – the data visualization showed a geographic and demographic breakdown of uninsured state residents who would be eligible for coverage when the law was fully implemented. The interactive map could zero in on one of Chicago’s community areas, or roll up to larger regions such as the state’s 87 “Public Use Metropolitan Areas.”

Visualizing Reform won a second place prize in the first-ever national Civic Data Challenge. (Funded in part by the Knight Foundation, the goal of the challenge is to turn raw data of “civic health” into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.)

In reporting on an update of the data released the following year, the AP highlighted the over 40,000 uninsured veterans in Illinois, 32% (13,000) of whom would be newly eligible for Medicaid under the Medicaid expansion.

Funding for the project came from the Chicago Community Trust and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. Data imputations came from Rob Paral Associates; development was by William Wang. Visualizing Reform was the first of the extensive series of data-mapping projects on health insurance and care delivery that are now available at Data Matters.

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