The uninsured rate keeps falling and falling, survey shows

The Washington Post Wonkblog
May 5, 2014

By Jason Millman

The nation’s uninsured rate after Obamacare’s first enrollment has dropped to the lowest point in at least six years, according to a new Gallup poll.

The 13.4 percent uninsured rate among adults – the lowest since Gallup starting tracking the number in January 2008 – is down from 17.1 percent near the end of 2013 and 15.6 percent at the end of this year’s first quarter. The uninsured rate fell 2.2 percent between April and the first quarter of 2014, suggesting that Obamacare’s late enrollment surge was driven by people who previously lacked coverage.

We won’t have the uninsured statistics from official government surveys for a while, but the Gallup poll has shown a steadily decreasing rate in the uninsured since the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges opened in October.

After Hispanic enrollment lagged this year, the Gallup poll found that Hispanics still have the highest uninsured rate of any key demographic group at 33.2 percent. That rate, though, is down 5.5 percent since the end of 2013. Blacks, who signed up for ACA exchange coverage at greater rates than expected, recorded the largest decline in the uninsured rate of any other group, down 7.1 percentage points to 13.8 percent.

Some other Gallup findings seem to support what the Obama administration and other surveys have reported. The uninsured rate among the all-important young adult demographic fell, but no faster than the rate for other groups. Low-income adults, who may qualify for expanded Medicaid programs or the most generous subsidies through ACA exchanges, saw larger decreases in the uninsured rate than higher-earning groups.

Now that Obamacare open enrollment is over, where does the uninsured rate go from here? Gallup says the number could tick back up if some newly insured don’t pay their premiums, though evidence suggests that from 80 percent to 90 percent of those signing up for private coverage have paid at least for the first month. It’s also possible that people could gain new coverage through special enrollment periods triggered by certain life events.

Medicaid enrollment also goes all year, and a previous Rand Corp. survey showed that employer coverage has played a major part in driving down the uninsured rate. Naturally, though, this latest Gallup poll is far from the final word on Obamacare’s effect on the uninsured rate.


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