The main goal of the president’s health care law is to expand access to coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans—and according to a new survey of Obamacare enrollees—it may be achieving that goal.
Nearly six in 10 people-or 4.5 million—who signed up for Obamacare were previously uninsured, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey found. The majority of these people said they had gone without coverage for at least two years and nearly 70 percent said they decided to buy insurance because of the law, while a little over a quarter said they would have gotten it anyway.
This is out of step with a previous report from McKinsey, which found that just 24 percent of enrollees were previously uninsured. When that poll came out back in March, it fueled rumors (especially from the right) suggesting that the majority of enrollees were people who had insurance cancelled under the president’s health care law and were forced to buy coverage on the new exchanges.
But as Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out, the differing survey results may be attributed to how the questions of each survey were framed.
In McKinsey’s survey, which used a non-random sample of people buying insurance on the individual market, asked respondents to identify if they had insurance “most of the year” in 2013. “This would mean that an Obamacare enrollee who, for example, lost their employer coverage in August and bought an exchange plan in December would be counted as someone who did have previous coverage,” Kliff notes.
While Kaisers’ asked a random sample of 742 people who purchased plans on the exachanges this question: "Before you began coverage under your current health insurance plan, were you covered by a different plan you purchased yourself, were you covered by an employer, by COBRA, did you have Medicaid or other public coverage, or were you uninsured?"
Of course, it’s difficult to determine which is the most accurate and the administration has yet to provide its own estimate of how many uninsured people have gained coverage through the new law—despite being a key metric in determining whether the law is meeting its goals.
In May, Gary Cohen surprised an audience at a health insurance industry conference by admitting “that’s not a data point we are really collecting.”
However, other polls have found that the uninsured rate has fallen in the past few months, suggesting that the law is having an impact.
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