As a possible sign the Affordable Care Act is increasing the number of Americans with health insurance coverage, the uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2014 dropped to 15.6%, its lowest level recorded since 2008, a new Gallup poll shows.
The current uninsured rate is likely even lower, given that uninsured rates kept declining throughout the quarter, including in late March, Gallup says.
The uninsured rate has been steadily falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18% earlier that year. Within the first months of 2014, the uninsured rate dropped consistently from 16.2% in January to 15.6% in February and to 15% in March. The uninsured rate dropped more than a point in March alone, from 15.8% in the first half of the month to 14.7% in the second half, Gallup says, noting that enrollment through the health care exchanges increased as the March 31 deadline approached.
The uninsured rate dropped the most for blacks and lower-income Americans 3.3 points to 17.6% and 3.2 points to 27.5%, respectively. The Gallup poll also found Hispanics remain the subgroup most likely to lack health insurance, with 37% still uninsured.
See related story: Cost a main reason for Americans remaining uninsured
Although the Obama administration has targeted the enrollment of young adults, whose relative good health can stabilize the financial risk of insuring more at-risk Americans as a provision of the ACA, Gallup found the uninsured rate dropped by about the same amount (two points) among adults aged 26 to 64 as it did among those aged 18 to 25. The uninsured rate among 18- to 25-year-olds fell to 21.7% in the first quarter of 2014; the rate fell to 26.4% among those aged 26 to 34, and to 16.1% among those aged 35 to 64.
The results from the first quarter of 2014 are based on more than 43,500 interviews with U.S. adults from Jan. 2 to March 31, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
President Obama announced April 1 that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health insurance plans through federal and state-run marketplaces. The Obama administration also announced that Americans unable to sign up by March 31 could request an extension through April 15, which could further drive down the uninsured rate in the second quarter of 2014, Gallup says.
See related story: ACA open enrollment extension may injure insurers
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