With the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period having come and gone, a new poll finds the uninsured population in the country is at its lowest rate since 2008.
Gallup reported Monday that the uninsured rate fell to 15.6% in the first quarter of 2014, down 1.5 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2013. The poll finds that the rate of uninsured in the country continued to fall throughout the ACA’s six-month enrollment period.
Results from the first quarter are based on more than 43,500 interviews with U.S. adults.
The ACA mandates that every individual in the country have insurance by March 31, or they will face a fine of $95 a year or 1% of their annual income. Those who struggled to enroll by the deadline and filed for an extension, have until April 15 to complete the process.
President Obama announced on April 1 that 7.1 million Americans had selected plans on both state and federal exchanges, and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has estimated that between 80%-90% of this group had paid their first month’s premium. The insurance industry typically considers a person enrolled once he or she makes that first month’s premium payment.
Gary Claxton, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says Gallup’s poll is an indication that things are moving in the right direction in the wake of the president’s signature legislation.
“The number of people without insurance is moving toward where it should be,” Claxton says. “The estimates of uninsured are falling, which is what you would expect as more people sign up.”
The Gallup poll does not specify how many of the respondents who gained coverage were previously uninsured.
“I don’t think one would expect that everyone who went to the exchanges was previously uninsured, due to the amount of people who had group insurance before, they had to go somewhere,” Claxton says, in regard to the upwards of six million people who had their plans cancelled for not complying with new regulations under the ACA.
The law mandates that every health insurance plan cover 10 essential health benefits, including ambulatory services, prescription drug benefits and maternity and newborn care.
Gallup’s report finds adults ages 18 to 25 are uninsured at a rate of 21.7% in the first quarter of 2014, down from 23.5% in the fourth quarter of 2013. The law allows children 26 and younger to remain on a parent’s insurance plan. For those ages 26 to 34, 26.4% were uninsured in the first quarter of 2014, down from 28.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
The latest demographic breakdown reported from HHS was in mid-March, when 4.2 million people had enrolled with 25% being between the ages of 18 and 34. This demographic is needed to offset the higher costs of caring for older and less healthy individuals. Gallup reports its findings are consistent with the latest breakdown.
The Congressional Budget Office had projected originally that there would be 7 million Americans enrolled in year one, with 40% being between the ages of 18 and 34.
In regards to how many young people are enrolling, which the latest enrollment stats from the Obama Administration fail to break down, Claxton says it’s difficult to nail down in surveys like Gallup’s.
“All of these surveys run into issues with sub-populations, because they don’t provide enough information about each statistic to know that,” he says. “There’s not enough information about the relative reliability of these estimates.”