February 12, 2014:
The percentage of Americans without health insurance has dropped to a five year low and is on pace to hit its lowest point in recent history, according to a new Gallup survey released today. Though the poll comes four months into Obamacare’s rollout, Gallup cautions that it is too early to credit the president’s signature health care law for the decline.
According to the survey, about 16 percent of American adults are uninsured, down from the high of 18 percent last year.
The survey was conducted one month after insurance policies purchased on the new health exchanges took effect. Therefore, it is likely that some of the people surveyed gained coverage through Obamacare. However, others have seen their policies cancelled since the law took effect, so it is difficult to measure exactly how Obamacare has impacted the uninsured rate so far.
“If the uninsured rate continues to fall over the next several months, it may suggest that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, which took effect on Jan. 1, is responsible for the decline,” Gallup’s Jenna Levy noted.
The poll shows more people are getting health coverage through Medicaid as well as the individual market. Some 7.4 percent of Americans are enrolled in Medicaid, up from 6.6 last quarter. “This uptick may be because some states have chosen to participate in the Medicaid expansion under a provision of the Affordable Care Act,” Gallup’s Jenna Levy noted.
Some 18 percent of people said they bought coverage on their own—up from 17 percent last quarter. Meanwhile, fewer people said they received coverage through their employer—about 43.5 percent compared to 45.5 percent last quarter. The chart below demonstrates the shifts in where people are getting their health insurance compared to last quarter.
Among some groups, the Affordable Care Act’s impact seems to be more pronounced. For example, the uninsured rate among 18 to 25-year-olds has steadily declined since a provision of the law took effect in 2010 allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. Before then, this group had the highest percentage of uninsured people—at 27.6 percent, now about 23.3 percent are uninsured.
Gallup also noted that the rate of uninsured Americans ages 26 to 34 years old has declined faster than any other group. Now, some 25.7 percent of 26 to 34-year-olds are uninsured, compared to the multi-year high of 30.2 last quarter. This group still has the highest rate of uninsured people.
If the drop in the uninsured rate among young Americans is because of increased signed ups and not remaining on their parents’ insurance, it’s good news for the Obama administration. The president has stressed the importance of getting enough young people to sign up for health coverage in the new health exchanges in order to offset the costs of coverage for older, sicker Americans.
So far, the administration says about 27 percent of the total Obamacare enrollees are young people. That’s well below the 40 percent benchmark the White House has set in order for the exchanges to be successful. Still, officials say they expect a surge of enrollments ahead of the March 31 deadline.
In total, more than 3 million people have selected plans on the state and federal exchange so far. However, according to a recent CNN survey of insurers, just one in five of those people had paid their premiums.