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The rate of people without health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent in the fourth quarter of last year to 15.6 percent at the start of this year, a Gallup poll shows.
The report is in line with other surveys showing that the 2010 Affordable Care Act has begun forcing down the numbers of Americans without health insurance. Last week, the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute said the rate of people without health insurance fell from just under 18 percent last fall to 15.2 percent.
“The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18 percent in the third quarter — a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ‘Obamacare,’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,” Gallup says.
“Even within this year's first quarter, the uninsured rate fell consistently, from 16.2 percent in January to 15.6 percent in February to 15 percent in March.”
The Obama administration says at least 7.1 million people signed up for private health insurance on the online, health insurance exchanges that opened up in October. It says 3 million people have newly enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance plan for people with low incomes.
There are various estimates of how many Americans lack health insurance. The Census Bureau estimates that 47 million Americans went without health insurance last year, more than 15 percent of the population. The Affordable Care Act seeks to change that by providing federally subsidized insurance on the online exchanges.
Some states are also expanding the federal-state Medicaid insurance plan for people with low incomes and the administration anticipates that millions will be covered that way. In addition, the new health law sets up strict new rules for new insurance policies that start in 2014.
Insurers may no longer turn people away because of pre-existing conditions, they may not cap coverage and they must pay for certain “essential” health needs, including cancer screening and vaccinations. Health experts believe many more Americans will get new policies under these rules, including people who will buy their insurance directly from providers and not on the Obamacare exchanges.