Uninsured rate at lowest level since 2008

The country’s uninsured rate has dipped among blacks and lower-income Americans, and now sits at its lowest level since 2008, according to Gallup numbers released Monday.

Gallup reported that the percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped to 15.6 percent, a drop of 1.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013.

Gallup researchers said the drop in uninsured rate corresponds with the deadline to enroll in coverage or face a penalty under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The slow, but continued, decline of the uninsured rate indicates “that enrollment through the health care exchanges increased as the March 31 deadline approached,” researchers said.

Last week, the Obama administration announced that 7.1 million people had signed up for a plan under PPACA following the March 31 open enrollment deadline.

Gallup said as PPACA continues its implementation — and rolling deadlines — the uninsured rate could drop even more.

“The Obama administration also announced that Americans unable to sign up by March 31 could request an extension through April 15, which could further drive down the uninsured rate in the second quarter of 2014,” Gallup reported. “Additionally, other provisions of the health care law have not yet gone into effect, such as the requirement for employers to provide health insurance to their employees by 2015. These provisions also may affect the uninsured rate over time.”

Despite slight gains in health coverage among all age groups, there wasn’t a huge drop in the uninsured rate for young adults, a group whose enrollment in health plans was a priority for the administration.

The uninsured rate among 18- to 25-year-olds fell to 21.7 percent in the first quarter; the rate fell to 26.4 percent among those aged 26 to 34, and to 16.1 percent among those aged 35 to 64, Gallip said.

Meanwhile, Gallup found the uninsured rate fell the most among blacks and lower-income Americans. The uninsured rate for lower-income Americans dropped 3.2 points to 27.5 percent — the largest decline within any key subgroup — while the uninsured rate for blacks fell 3.3 points to 17.6 percent.

Hispanics still remain the subgroup most likely to lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 37 percent, though their rate dropped 1.7 points in the first quarter.

The results from the first quarter are based on more than 43,500 interviews with U.S. adults from Jan. 2 to March 31, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

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