Uninsured rate hits five-year low

By BenefitsPro


By Kathryn Mayer

The number of uninsured Americans has hit a five-year low — but don’t go thanking the president just yet.

That’s the word from Gallup, which reported Wednesday that 16 percent of adults are uninsured, down from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

“While more than a month remains in the first quarter, these preliminary data show the uninsured rate appears to be on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level measured since 2008,” Gallup researchers reported.

Though the rate dropped significantly, researchers said it’s too soon to say the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the cause.

“The uninsured rate also dropped to the low-16 percent range in late 2012 before rising again in 2013, suggesting that there may be inherent variability in the rate or random fluctuation due to sampling error,” Gallup reported. “Still, if the uninsured rate continues to fall over the next several months, it may suggest that [PPACA’s] requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, which took effect on Jan. 1, is responsible for the decline.”

Perhaps more significantly, Gallup found that the uninsured rate for 26- to 34-year-olds is falling faster than any other group. The rate for uninsured young adults is at 25.7 so far, down from 30.2 last quarter. Despite the improvement, the age group is still the largest segment of uninsured.

The uninsured rate among 18- to 25-year-olds dipped slightly so far in 2014 to 23.3 percent. Gallup said the uninsured rate for this age group has “generally been steady since December 2010, after the Affordable Care Act provision allowing young adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans took effect.”

Gallup also reported that Americans who report they are insured through Medicaid has increased to 7.4 percent from 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, an increase likely due to PPACA’s Medicaid expansion.

Meanwhile, fewer people, 43.5 percent, get health coverage through their current or former employer, down from 45.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. More now say they have a plan fully paid for by themselves or a family member — 18 percent versus 17.2 percent at the end of last year.

Data is based on more than 19,000 interviews with Americans from Jan. 2-Feb. 10, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com