A new survey indicates that the number of Americans without any form of insurance has dropped dramatically since the introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act by the Obama administration. That includes millions who have never had health insurance before.
In the last quarter of 2013 the number of adults that lacked coverage was 18% and that figure dropped to 14.7% in the last part of March. That equates to about 8 million people gaing health insurance since September last year. That also adjusts for cancellations of policies that may have occurred when the new laws forced the removal of plans that did not meet the legislation’s requirements.
The poll was conducted by Gallup, who have a long history of monitoring the state of health care in the United States, including the progress of Medicare and Medicaid. The results are a slap in the face to pundits who said the law has not done anything to increase participation in health insurance.
According to Gallup researchers – “The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013 … a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,”
Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, insurance companies could no longer turn away sick individuals who may have had pre-existing conditions. Many of the newly insured may in fact be people who could not find insurance previously.
Under the act, in many states low income Americans could also sign up for Medicaid coverage for the first time. The survey doesn’t even cover the full extent of the increase in the number of insured because many Americans gained coverage before September.
An estimated 3 million children gained the coverage of their parent’s health care plans which they retain until they turn 26.
The number of uninsured has always been relatively high in the United States, but it became worse under the George W Bush administration as the economy slid into recession and many people could no longer afford it, or lost their employment.
It may in fact be a number of years before we know the full impact of the Affordable Health Care act, as people adjust their insurance plans and decide on what level of coverage they think is appropriate. There is a distinct possibility that many of the new signatories to health insurance may not remain covered for more than a couple of years and instead return to the pool of uninsured.
In some states certain provisions like the Medicaid changes are also being rolled out late, so there will be a boost to the insured rate there in the coming months. Additionally, many people who began applying for insurance coverage by March 31 may not have actually completed their application and have until April 15 to do so. There could be many more thousands who jumped in at the last minute and will not show up in the insurance figures yet.
Gallup said this may result in another drop to the uninsured rate in the 2nd quarter of 2014.
According to the survey, the greatest gain to the insured rate was in African, Latino households who could suddenly access cheaper health care plans. Households earning less than $36’000 a year also demonstrated a large gain in insurance rates. They were all groups that the Obama administration did expect large gains in, so they have come to fruition.
Gallup isn’t the only poll reflecting these gains with recent polls by the Times and Rand Corp also showing a drop in the uninsured rate.