New Survey Data Confirm Significant Drop in US Uninsured Rate; Lowest Since 2008

New survey data indicate that the percentage of uninsured American adults has dropped from 20.5 percent to 15.8 percent between September 2013 and mid-March 2014. The survey results, released this week by the Rand American Life Panel, suggest that the newly insured have secured health insurance coverage from multiple sources including the new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as employer-sponsored coverage and Medicaid.

The RAND American Life Panel estimates put insurance marketplace enrollments at 3.9 million, with only 1.4 million of the group previously uninsured. The company noted in the report that RAND numbers may be lower than those reported by the federal government because it did not have visibility to the data from the surge in enrollments that occurred in the final days of the enrollment period.

The official enrollment number of 7.1 million, released by the Obama administration, is slightly higher because of the final sign-ups, but other survey data, released Monday by the Gallup organization, reasonably align with the RAND data. Gallup’s survey results show the uninsured rate in America dropping from 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013 to 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The Gallup report claims the current uninsured rate in the U.S. is the lowest since 2008.

Despite the determination and focus by the Obama administration on encouraging young Americans to get covered, Gallup reported the uninsured rate dropped uniformly across all age groups between the ages of 18 and 65. Seniors already weigh in with low uninsured rates, due largely to Medicare, but their uninsured rates dropped a little as well.

Across racial lines African-Americans saw the biggest drop in their uninsured rate, according to Gallup, with a 3.3 percent drop from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014. Hispanic Americans saw a smaller drop of only 1.7 percent over the time period. Gallup reports this group continues to be the least likely to have insurance, with an uninsured rate of 37 percent compared to 17.6 percent for African-Americans and 10.7 percent for whites. 

According to the Gallup data, lower income Americans saw the biggest drop among socioeconomic groups, with rates going from 30.7 percent to 27.5 percent over the last few months from those making $36,000 or less per year.