Obamacare Numbers: What Does the Falling Uninsurance Rate Mean?

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Unsurprisingly, the Affordable Care Act was used as the punchline of more than few jokes at Saturday night’s 100th annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. With the deadline for the first enrollment period passed and a total of eight million Americans enrolled in health plans purchased through the state-based exchanges, President Barack Obama was able to poke fun with a certain amount of ease at the design flaws and technical errors that plagued the federal healthcare website for weeks after it launched at the beginning of October. In an admission that the rollout of HealthCare.gov could have progressed much more smoothly, Obama noted that, “In 2008, my slogan was ‘Yes, we can!’ In 2013, my slogan was ‘Control-Alt-Delete.’” But “on the plus side,” he continued, while video screens on either side of the podium showed the title of the Disney film Frozen, “they did turn the launch of HealthCare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movies.”

What is far less simple to pass off as a concern of the past is the degree to which the healthcare reform will be successful over the long-term.

When the six-month enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges came to a close on March 31, not much time or media energy was devoted to dwelling on the fact that the Obama administration’s target of 7 million sign ups had been reached. Overshadowing that victory were claims that hitting the enrollment target was not a real sign of success; according to critical analyses, more important to the viability of the marketplaces system created by the healthcare reform was who enrolled. If a majority those who signed up were previously uninsured, then Obamacare successful expanded coverage as the president intended.

Gallup has now confirmed that the country’s uninsurance rate is declining as a result of the healthcare reform. Data shows that across the entire United States, the share of Americans without health insurance has steadily declined since reaching a peak at 18.0 percent in the third quarter of 2013 and now stands at 13.4 percent. “This downward trend in the uninsured rate coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in October 2013, and accelerated as the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance coverage approached — and passed — for most uninsured Americans,” noted the firm’s Jenna Levy.


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