No need to trust feds to see big drop in people without health insurance

As the federal government rolls out figures on the number of Americans with health insurance, some have denied the figures, claiming that the books are cooked.

If one really doesn’t trust the numbers from the feds, then it would be best to consult an external, private source of data.

Well, here’s the Gallup organization, to provide some.

Gallup has been tracking how many Americans report that they lack health insurance. Their latest data shows a significant, rapid drop — from 18% uninsured when the Obamacare marketplaces opened in October 2013, to 13.4% in early April 2014.

This is the lowest rate of uninsured Gallup found since they started tracking it in 2008. You can see the quick drop over at the right side of the graph.

From: Gallup,"U.S. Uninsured Rate Drops to 13.4%," May 5, 2014

From: Gallup,”U.S. Uninsured Rate Drops to 13.4%,” May 5, 2014

Gallup polled a massive number of people in each wave. For instance, the results for April are based on interviewing 14,704 from April 1-30. These include adults 18 and over in every state plus the District of Columbia. Thus they have a small margin of error, just +/- 1%.

How many people are we talking about?

As Talking Points Memo points out, “The 4.6 percentage-point drop since Obamacare enrollment launched is the equivalent of 14.4 million people gaining insurance.”

That 14.4 million newly insured includes people who got insurance through the marketplace, young people who stayed on their parents’ plans, people newly insured through Medicaid (and Gallup found that expansion states saw greater drops in uninsurance) and people who gained coverage by other means.

People over 65 already have near-universal rates of coverage because citizens are on the single-payer program, Medicare.

Other age groups saw drops in uninsurance, with the largest for adults between 35 and 64 years.

Gallup, "U.S. Uninsured Falls to 13.4%," May 5, 2014

Gallup, “U.S. Uninsured Falls to 13.4%,” May 5, 2014

These data clearly show that the claim that more lost health insurance coverage than gained it is bunk.

Other private organizations have shown similar declines in the percentage of uninsured. (Data wonks should consult this April 2014 brief from the Kaiser Foundation on different sources and their methodologies.)

Obviously, more changes will come. Some states, like Michigan and New Hampshire, are still rolling out their expansions of Medicaid. The employer mandate for businesses larger than 50 employees has not yet kicked in. And a new round of open enrollment for 2015 will begin this fall.

But so far, the Affordable Care Act most certainly has decreased the ranks of the uninsured.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.