More Americans Uninsured, But ACA Approval Increases

Gregory A. Freeman, April 20, 2017

The percentage of Americans without health insurance rose slightly in the first quarter of 2017, but a recent poll indicates a majority now approve of the Affordable Care Act.

The rate of uninsured increased to 11.3% in the first quarter, up from 10.9% in the last two quarters of 2016, according to a report from Gallup and Healthways. The 10.9% was the lowest rate of uninsured Americans since the groups began tracking it in 2008. The highest rate was 18% in the third quarter of 2013, just before the ACA took effect.

Even with this small increase in the uninsured rate in the first quarter of 2017, the number of U.S. adults without health insurance is still 6.7 percentage points lower than it was at its peak in the third quarter of 2013.

Gallup and Healthways conducted interviews with almost 45,000 adults from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2017.  Gallup said the increase in the number of uninsured Americans in the first quarter of 2017 could be attributed at least in part to uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Gallup data indicates that health plans are succeeding in recruiting more young people, considered essential to keep utilization rates overall at a reasonable level.

Adults aged 18 to 25 have seen more than a seven-percentage-point decline in their uninsured rate since 2013, and Gallup says that may be a result of the ACA provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26. Those aged 26 to 34 have seen a nearly 10-point drop.

For the first time ever, a Gallup poll has found that a majority of respondents approve of the ACA. Fifty-five percent of Americans now support the ACA, Gallup says, changing the balance from just five months ago when 42% approved and 53% disapproved.

"Republicans, Democrats, and independents are all more likely to approve of the ACA now than in November, a few days after Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election left Republicans in control of the legislative and executive branches. Independents have led the way in this shift toward approval, increasing by 17 percentage points compared with 10-point changes for both Republicans and Democrats," Gallup says.

"When including 'leaners' (independents who lean toward either the Republican or Democratic Party) in the totals for both major party groups, Democratic approval has increased by 16 points, compared with eight points for Republicans."

Forty-eight percent approved of the healthcare law the first time Gallup asked the current version of the question in November 2012.

"In response to a previous version of the question that asked whether Americans thought passing the healthcare law was a good thing or a bad thing, 49% said it was a good thing when the question was first asked in early 2010," Gallup says. "However, support was a few percentage points lower each of the next two times it was asked."

Gregory A. Freeman

Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer.

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