The percentage of Americans without health insurance has decreased dramatically since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, according to new polling by Gallup.
The poll found that in the year since the individual mandate went into effect, the percentage of uninsured people in the country has dropped by 4.2 points. During the last quarter of 2014, the uninsured rate fell to 12.9 percent, down slightly from 13.4 percent in the third quarter of 2014.
The 12.9 percent mark is the lowest percentage of uninsured people that Gallup has recorded since the polling service began tracking the statistic daily in 2008.
The poll found that the most significant demographic to benefit from the reduction in the uninsured rate was low-income people and people of color.
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The uninsured rate of Black Americans fell by 7 percent over the past year, and the uninsured rate of Hispanics fell by 6.3 percent over that same time. The uninsured rate of Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income fell by 6.9 percent over that same period.
The number of Americans who receive insurance through their employer increased slightly over the past year, from 42.5 percent to 43.4 percent. The percentage of Americans who receive health insurance through self-paid plans also increased slightly, from 19.3 percent to 20.6 percent.
According to Gallup’s analysis of the poll data, the percentage of Americans without health insurance is expected to decrease more as health plans that were purchased during the ACA open enrollment period take effect.
Gallup cites the Department of Health and Human Services report that 6.5 million people either selected new plans or were automatically re-enrolled in health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov. Prior to the open enrollment period, Gallup found that more than half of those polled who were uninsured said they planned to sign up for health insurance through the ACA.
The uninsured rate could decrease even more if more states expand Medicaid, according to the Gallup analysis. To date, 28 states have implemented Medicaid expansion through the ACA, which Gallup cites as a major factor in declining uninsured rates. (Some health professionals have raised concerns about the number of doctors available to treat an increased number of Medicaid patients, which Rewire‘s Nina Liss-Shultz explains here.)
Several studies and reports have documented the consequences of states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid. Under the ACA, the federal government covers the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and 90 percent of the cost in subsequent years.
More and more Republican governors over the past year have explored expanding Medicaid.
Public opinion surveys in red states like Tennessee and Georgia show that the majority of residents want Medicaid expansion, despite the fierce opposition of conservative lawmakers who have proposed legislation meant to undermine the foundational pieces of the ACA.
Republican Govs. Pat McCrory of North Carolina and Gary Herbert of Utah met with President Obama Tuesday to discuss a compromise path toward Medicaid expansion in Republican-controlled states.
States such of Iowa and Arkansas have expanded Medicaid through alternative plans, and Pennsylvania’s alternative expansion program was recently approved by federal regulators. The expansion of Medicaid Pennsylvania is expected to extend health insurance coverage to as many as 600,000 of the state’s working poor by next year.