Gallup: Percentage of uninsured drops to lowest level since 2008

It’s based on a big sample (43,000+ adults) but I notice via Memeorandum that even some lefties are being cautious in drawing grand conclusions from the data. Jonathan Bernstein cites as evidence for skepticism the fact that Gallup showed what he regards as an inexplicable *increase* in the rate of uninsured in the middle of last year. Is that really inexplicable, though? Seems like a logical byproduct of insurers dumping people from their existing plans en masse as O-Care took effect. Six months later, as people whose plans were canceled have migrated to new coverage and as some previously uninsured have finally enrolled, the numbers are way down.

Gallup’s not the only organization to show the number of uninsured falling, needless to say. The question isn’t whether it’s happening, it’s how sharply and among which demographics.


The number of uninsured leaped after the financial crisis struck in 2008, with massive layoffs severing some people from coverage, and now it’s headed downward again thanks to the glories of state coercion in insurance purchases. (The Rand Corporation, in its own recent survey, found the rate of uninsured dropping from 20.9 percent last fall to 16.6 percent on March 22.) The AP eyeballed the numbers and concluded that ObamaCare is indeed reducing the rate of the insured — but not by as much as the White House claims:

Coming a week after the close of the health care law’s first enrollment season, Gallup’s numbers suggest a more modest impact on coverage than statistics cited by the Obama administration.

The administration says more than 7 million have signed up for subsidized private plans through new insurance markets. Additionally, 3 million previously uninsured people gained coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion…

The White House figure of 7 million-plus insurance exchange sign-ups includes insured people who switched their previous coverage, as well as people who have not paid their first month’s premium, and who would therefore still be uninsured.

Also, Gallup is counting just adults, while the administration figures include children as well.

If the White House is overcounting, how many uninsured people have really obtained insurance this year? The AP’s back-of-the-envelope math based on Gallup’s numbers puts it in the ballpark of 3.5 million (i.e. 17.1 percent uninsured a few months ago versus 15.6 percent now). Rand’s recent study, which was completed before the big sign-up surge in late March, estimated that six million people had gained insurance under the law but that only two million of them had been previously uninsured. Of those who gained coverage, how many bought a plan on the ObamaCare exchanges, though, and how many signed up for Medicaid under O-Care’s expansion? That’s hard to say too, but these numbers are interesting. The first column represents the percentage who were uninsured as of late last year and the second column represents how many are still uninsured now:


The lower-income group, which includes Medicaid enrollees, has naturally seen a steeper drop than the other groups. Some signed up for Medicaid and some got a federal subsidy to buy an O-Care exchange plan, but it’s unclear how many are in each group. That’s another question that health-care wonks will have their eye on going forward. Stay tuned.