The national uninsurance rate continues to drop to historic lows under the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that the law is making significant progress in its goal of reducing the number of people going without health care coverage. Now, nearly nine in ten American adults say they have insurance, according to the latest survey from Gallup.
Gallup researchers, who have been tracking this data since 2008, recorded the lowest uninsurance rate yet when they surveyed Americans during the first three months of 2015. The rate of uninsured Americans fell to just under 12 percent — dropping more than five percentage points since the beginning of 2013, right before Obamacare’s major coverage expansion went into effect:
“The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act — the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance — took effect at the beginning of 2014,” Gallup concludes.
The decline in the uninsurance rate that occurred after Obamacare’s first open enrollment period translates to about 3.6 million fewer uninsured adults. The researchers note this shift has most greatly benefited the demographic groups that have historically struggled to access insurance, like low-income people and Hispanic Americans. By this measure, the Affordable Care Act appears to be succeeding in at least one of its primary goals five years after it was first signed into law.
“The Affordable Care Act had three major objectives: increase coverage, slow the rate of increase in costs, and improve health,” Dan Witters, the research director for Gallup’s poll, told the Associated Press. “The first one is clearly a win. Coverage is increasing; there is no question about it.”
However, the gains under Obamacare have been uneven throughout the country. A recent study from the Commonwealth Fund suggests that the people who live in states where political leaders have resisted health reform — refusing to set up their own marketplaces, expand Medicaid, or help ease the enrollment process — are still struggling to access insurance. Because GOP lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid to additional low-income Americans, millions of the working poor fall into a “coverage gap” that leaves them locked out of Obamacare’s promise of affordable coverage altogether. If every single state agreed to expand Medicaid, the national uninsurance rate would be an estimated two percentage points lower.
Plus, the recent progress toward insuring more Americans may be placed in jeopardy depending on the outcome of a pending Supreme Court challenge against the law. If the justices rule in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the government will no longer be allowed to offer subsidies to help Americans buy insurance in the states with federally-run marketplaces — which could result in skyrocketing premiums and an estimated eight million additional uninsured people.