The rate of uninsured in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 2008, according to a new Gallup survey released Monday. The uninsured rate in April was 13.4%, the lowest level ever recorded in Gallup's ongoing survey that dates back to January 2008.
Gallup's new estimates are the best estimate of the effect of the Affordable Care Act after the end of its first full open enrollment period, which dragged on through the first two-plus weeks of April. Ultimately, the simplest goal of the law — one that cuts through the spin of the sign-up numbers — is to reduce the number of uninsured in the U.S.
The uninsured rate has plunged from a peak of 18% last October. Gallup said the steep drop "coincided" with the opening of the federal and state insurance marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act, as well as the expansion of the federal Medicaid program in 27 states and the District of Columbia. As Gallup has noted, the uninsured rate is falling much faster in states that have expanded Medicaid.
Here's the chart from Gallup showing the history of its tracking on the question, including the peak last year followed by the sharp decline:
The drop in the uninsured rate was even more pronounced among African-Americans (down 7.7 points) and Latinos (down 5.5 points). Lower-income Americans (those with an income of $36,000 or less) saw a 5.5-point drop in their rate of uninsured.
Overall, the survey mirrors other studies conducted in the final stages of Obamacare's first open enrollment period. A RAND Corp. survey released early last month found the uninsured rate dropped almost 5 percentage points. Subsequent figures from the Congressional Budget Office showed a drop to 16%. The CBO said it expects the uninsured rate to fall even farther in the coming years.
According to Gallup, there are several factors that could swing the uninsured rate in either direction over the coming months. More people could gain coverage if more states adopt the Medicaid expansion, which has faced steep resistance from Republican-led states. But if a significant number of people who gained insurance through the exchanges do not pay their premiums, the uninsured rate is likely to spike again.
Despite the steep drop in the uninsured rate, the health-care law remains unpopular heading into the midterm elections. A Pew Research survey found disapproval of the law is tied for its highest level ever.
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