Rate of Uninsured Continues to Drop

One of the key measures of whether the Affordable Care Act is working, the number of Americans without health insurance, continues to show great progress. Only a couple years ago, the percentage uninsured was over 17%; now it’s at 12.9%, according to Gallup.

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults for the fourth quarter of 2014 averaged 12.9%. This is down slightly from 13.4% in the third quarter of 2014 and down significantly from 17.1% a year ago. The uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for Americans to have health insurance went into effect one year ago.

The uninsured rate declined sharply in the first and second quarters last year as more Americans signed up for health insurance through federal and state exchanges. After the open enrollment period closed in mid-April, the rate leveled off at around 13%. The 12.9% who lacked health insurance in the fourth quarter is the lowest Gallup and Healthways have recorded since beginning to track the measure daily in 2008. The 2015 open enrollment period began in the fourth quarter on Nov. 15 and will close on Feb. 15.

Which means it will probably decline a bit more after the end of the 2015 open enrollment period. Equally important:

While the uninsured rate has declined across nearly all key demographic groups since the Affordable Care Act went into effect a year ago, it has plunged most among blacks and lower-income Americans. The uninsured rate among blacks dropped seven points over the past year, while the rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 6.9 points.

There are two other key measures of whether the ACA is succeeding:

1. The rate of growth in the cost of health insurance premiums and health care overall.

2. The percentage of health care that is unpaid.

On that second measure, things are already improving. As more people have insurance, fewer visits to hospitals will go unpaid. That should also improve the first measure, though that may be balanced off by the fact that more people will be seeing doctors that could not have done so before.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
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  • D. C. Sessions

    Ed you write this as though being insured is a Good Thing.

    I’ve seen several Republican officeholders lately pointing out cases of adverse outcomes (people dying in surgery, drug reactions, etc.) as demonstrating that being insured is Bad For You and that part of the Evil of Obamacare is that it exposes the poor to those horrible risks.

    So you see, they oppose Obamacare out of their Christian Love.

  • dingojack

    Assuming that there are 318,892,103 Americans then 4.2% is 13,393,468 more insured people since last year.

    Dingo

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    So more Moochers are getting more free stuff from the Hardworking Taxpayers?

  • http://angrybychoice.fieldofscience.com Lorax

    That balance in more people seeing doctors may itself be offset by fewer people going to the ER because of the availability ofmuch less expensive preventative care.

  • gerryl

    Regarding one of the key measures of success:

    “1. The rate of growth in the cost of health insurance premiums and health care overall.”

    Unfortunately, there is nothing in the ACA that is specifically designed to achieve this. All reductions in the costs (or in rate of growth) are supposed to come through the magic of the market. Patients will become more savvy consumers of healthcare and companies will have to compete for their business. Because shopping for healthcare is just like buying a car or a pair of jeans.

  • Michael Heath

    gerryl writes:

    there is nothing in the ACA that is specifically designed to achieve this [reduce the rate of healthcare price inflation]. All reductions in the costs (or in rate of growth) are supposed to come through the magic of the market.

    It’s not magic, it’s fairly simple math. If:

    a) We increase the pool of people paying premiums while also,

    b) increasing the number of insured people that consume less healthcare then the previous pool of insureds, i.e., younger people; then:

    c) The cost of healthcare for the entire system, not just those that are insured, newly or otherwise, will be marginally less costly.

    Not only that, but increased access to healthcare should also increase GDP by making the workforce more productive. IIRC, in 2009 the White House’s economists [conservatively] predicted a marginal GDP increase of 0.3% once Obamacare was fully implemented (about $42 billion if GDP is $14 trillion). “Fully” would include the 5 million Americans in the slave red states who are prevented access to Medicaid since SCOTUS overturned that part of the ACA where those states have convincingly demonstrated they do not want their poor to have access to government funded healthcare, even when those states’ costs are virtually nil and the marginal impact to their GDP is significant.

  • sanford

    Have you read or heard Steven Brill about the Affordable Act. He has a new book out. He was on the Daily Show. While he thinks it is good that more people are getting insurance he does not think this is sustainable. If I heard him right the rates are still high. You can go to the daily show site and see the interview. I think he would be happy with a single payer system.

  • Michael Heath

    sanford writes:

    While he thinks it is good that more people are getting insurance he does not think this is sustainable. If I heard him right the rates are still high.

    Of course they’re “still high”. No credible ACA proponent predicted otherwise.

  • dingojack

    MH – Further to your point about the negative affects of not expanding Medicaid, it’s also making it more expensive for hospitals to operate (so to speak), so they’re being forced to reduce ‘non-essential’ staff* and cut services…

    See here.

    Dingo

    ———

    * that is, admin staff, cleaners and orderlies. So when patients start dying because of a mix-up in meds due to a filing cock-up, or a out-break of antibiotic resistant MRSA from the improperly cleaned operating theatres, or simply dying in a corridor because nobody could take them where they needed to be, who will be blamed? Not the State legislatures who refused to expand Medicaid that’s for sure. The local Tea-baggers will lap it up.