Gallup reports a continued decrease in the percentage of Americans without health insurance, including a drop in uninsured young people:
The percentage of Americans without health insurance continues to fall, measuring 15.9% so far in 2014 compared with 17.1% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
These data are based on more than 28,000 interviews with Americans from Jan. 2-Feb. 28, 2014, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. With only a few weeks remaining in the first quarter, the uninsured rate is on track to be the lowest quarterly level that Gallup and Healthways have measured since 2008.
The uninsured rate has been declining since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter. The uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2014 so far includes a 16.2% reading for January and 15.6% for February.
Uninsured Rate Declines Most Among Lower-Income and Black Americans
The uninsured rate for almost every major demographic group has dropped in 2014 so far. The percentage of uninsured Americans with an annual household income of less than $36,000 has dropped the most — by 2.8 percentage points — to 27.9% since the fourth quarter of 2013, while the percentage of uninsured blacks has fallen 2.6 points to 18.3%. Hispanics remain the subgroup most likely to lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 37.9%.
The percentage of uninsured has declined across all age groups this year, except for those aged 65 and older. The uninsured rate for that group has likely remained stable because most Americans aged 65 and older have Medicare.
The uninsured rate among 26- to 34-year olds and 35- to 64-year olds continues to decline — now at 26.6% and 16.3%, respectively. The February Enrollment Report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted no significant changes in young adults’ enrollment in the health exchanges since its December report, with the cumulative total enrollment rate among 18- to 34-year-olds hovering at 25%…
The uninsured rate continues to decline after the requirement to have health insurance went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. This drop could be a result of the ACA, which aims to provide healthcare coverage to more Americans through multiple provisions, including federal and state healthcare marketplaces where Americans can purchase health insurance coverage at competitive rates.
At the end of February, HHS reported 4 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage through the marketplaces established under the ACA. With the open enrollment period scheduled to close on March 31, the uninsured rate in the U.S. will likely continue to fall. Additionally, healthcare aides in the Obama administration announced on Wednesday that Americans will be able to renew old health insurance plans for up to three years, even if the plans do not comply with ACA policies. Other provisions of the healthcare law have not yet gone into effect, such as the requirement for employers to provide health insurance to their employees by 2015 or 2016. These provisions also may affect the uninsured rate over time.
These numbers remain lower than ultimately desired but do show a significant improvement, and further enrollment in the exchanges is expected during March, after the period of this survey. Further enrollment by young, healthy adults would be advantageous, but with enrollment at current numbers the Affordable Care Act would remain viable. Some states also had delayed implementation of Medicaid expansion due to initial political opposition by Republicans (with some states continuing to refuse to expand Medicaid). For example, Michigan is not accepting applications for the expanded Medicaid program until after April 15, 2014, which should further add to the newly insured.
Most likely enrollment will also continue to increase substantially in future years. Initial implementation of the original Medicare program and Medicare Advantage plans were also hampered by problems and took time to get established. This year enrollment under policies provided under through the exchanges was hindered by additional factors including the initial computer problems and a campaign by opponents of the law to dissuade the uninsured from enrolling.
Numbers regarding reduction in the number of uninsured would provide one parameter regarding the success of the Affordable Care Act, but there are many other numbers to look at. This includes no longer having people lose their insurance due to developing serious medical problems or losing their job, no longer having people denied health care coverage due to pre-existing conditions, no longer having people declaring bankruptcy because of losing insurance, the number of people who no longer having caps on health care coverage, the number freed from the “insurance trap” forcing people who otherwise do not need to work to continue working for insurance coverage, along with the overall benefits to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office Report, frequently distorted by Republicans, shows that the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment, help decrease the deficit, and allow more people to leave large corporations to start small businesses.
Cross posted at The Moderate Voice