The percentage of Americans who say they lack health insurance ticked down slightly in January, according to new data that appear to reflect the first effects of President
Gallup, which has regularly tracked Americans' insurance status, reported Thursday that the share without any coverage had declined by about a percentage point in the first three weeks of January, to 16.1% of the adult population. That would represent slightly more than 2 million people.
The data provide the first indication of whether
The Obama administration and states have reported that as of early January, about 2.2 million people had signed up for coverage using the new marketplaces, known as exchanges, that the Affordable Care Act created. In addition to people who bought coverage on the new exchanges, several million more — the exact number remains uncertain — have qualified for
But not all of those people are newly insured; a significant percentage on the exchanges — and probably some of the new Medicaid patients, as well — previously had some coverage. That would be consistent with one of the law's other goals, which was to upgrade the quality of insurance available to people who do not get coverage from their workplaces. A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. of 389 consumers who bought coverage on exchanges found that only 11% were previously uninsured.
The increase in insurance coverage reported by Gallup underscores the slow nature of Obamacare’s rollout. Initial projections by the
Gallup's data is based on a large-scale survey — 9,145 adults polled between Jan. 2 and 19 as part of the company's regular Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index. But the numbers cannot conclusively determine whether the new law is responsible for the trend toward greater coverage. The percentage without insurance has fluctuated some from month to month, and an improving economy has probably led to some additional people getting insurance at work.
But the survey found the biggest improvement among those who are unemployed, indicating that employer coverage is not the only factor at play. Among people looking for work, the share without insurance dropped almost seven percentage points. Still, one-third of unemployed people reported they were without health coverage in January.