Gallup: Uninsured rate declines

The U.S. uninsured rate fell to its lowest rate in more than a year, according to the latest Gallup tracking index.

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The survey found the uninsured rate at 16.1 percent in January, down from 17.3 percent in December. 

The first open enrollment period for ObamaCare closed in late December amid a strong push by the administration to get people enrolled after two months of website problems set the process back.

The White House also unilaterally extended sign-up deadlines to accommodate those who had trouble with the website but sought last-minute coverage.

In mid-2013, the Gallup index hit a multi-year high of 18.6 percent, but the rate has trended lower since.

“This is a preliminary snapshot of the uninsured rate in January 2014, after several provisions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as 'Obamacare,' took effect,” Gallup analyst Jenna Levy wrote on the firm’s website. “The long-term impact of the Affordable Care Act on the uninsured will take months to determine.”

The unemployed were far and away the group that gained the most coverage. The uninsured rate among the unemployed fell 6.7 percent, from 40.8 percent in December to 34.1 percent in January.

The uninsured rate for nonwhites fell 2.6 percent. The rate also fell by 2 percent for 35-to-64-year-olds, 1.9 percent for women and by 1.8 percent for those making between $36,000 and $89,000.

“Still, with only 2.1 million Americans newly enrolled in plans through the exchanges as of Dec. 28, 2013, the Obama administration and other proponents of the new healthcare law have a long way to go in hopes of reaching the goal of increasing the number of Americans who have health coverage,” Levy wrote.

Young adults lagged in obtaining coverage, with the uninsured rate falling from 24.7 percent to 24.5 percent. That’s the slowest rate of decline for any group.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported earlier this month that 24 percent of ObamaCare’s enrollees are young people. A Kaiser Family Foundation report released last year estimated that number needed to be around 40 percent for the law to work optimally.

The Obama administration says it expects young adults to sign up in higher numbers before open enrollment ends on March 31, as many observers expected younger and healthier people would put off enrolling until the last second.

The administration is presently engaged in a sustained outreach effort toward young adults who don’t presently have coverage, and even those who do, as many could qualify for financial subsidies through the exchanges.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted random telephone interviews with more than 9,000 adults between Jan. 2 and Jan. 19. The survey has a 1 percentage point margin of error.