As of December 2014, just 12.9 percent of Americans are uninsured according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014. In 2012, approximately 45 million Americans aged 18 or older lacked health insurance, which represented about 19 percent of the adult population at the time. Gallup’s recent survey suggests that many of those Americans now have some form of health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which took effect in October 2013.
Toward the end of the fourth quarter in 2013, the number of uninsured adults in the United States had jumped to 18 percent. Now, that number falls just below 13 percent in what may be a record low for the country. More than 43,000 adults were interviewed regarding their health insurance between October and December of last year. The results show general satisfaction with health insurance options in America.
Several factors affect Americans’ ability and willingness to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The individual mandate, which officially goes into effect on this year’s taxes, requires eligible citizens to enroll in a qualified health plan during the open enrollment period each year. This year’s enrollment began on Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15, 2015.
Those who choose to forgo insurance can expect a fine when they file their taxes. The fine increases each year. For 2015, individuals can expect to pay the greater of $325 or 2 percent of their income for not complying with the law. Increased fees account for greater participation in enrollment this year as does the success of the marketplace in many areas. More Americans now have access to affordable healthcare options than they did before the ACA was signed into law, which encourages more people to sign up for insurance.
Not only have more Americans signed up for health insurance over the past year, but fewer people have enrolled in work-based plans since a year ago. However, employer-funded healthcare still remains the primary source of health insurance for most American adults. These plans account for 43.4 percent of the insurance market for adults aged 18 to 64.
Self-paid plans account for about 20.6 percent of health insurance plans as of the fourth quarter, which represents a 2.9-point jump since the third quarter of 2013. Medicaid participation has risen nearly 2 percentage points since third quarter 2013, which isn’t surprising given the expansion of Medicaid in 27 states and Washington, D.C.
Overall, uninsured rates have dropped for all demographics in the United States. However, low-income families and black Americans appear to have benefited most from the Affordable Care Act. The percentage of uninsured blacks in America dropped from 20.9 to 13.9 since the same time last year, which represents a 7 percent change. This change more than doubles the amount of uninsured whites.
People with incomes of less than $36,000 per year saw a big reduction in the overall uninsured percentage. Since the fourth quarter of 2014, the number of uninsured people with low incomes has dropped from 30.7 to 23.8 percent.
Age also played a factor in the number of insurance enrollees over the past year. The younger demographic experienced the biggest change. Of adults aged 18 to 25, the uninsured rate dropped 6.1 points from 23.5 to 17.4 percent. Those aged 65 or older saw little to no change since last year most likely due to the fact that the majority of adults aged 65 or older enroll in Medicare.
Challenges this year include a shorter enrollment period and lack of participation or enthusiasm from those who refused to sign up last year.
However, more states are expected to expand Medicaid in the upcoming year, which may have an impact on final enrollment numbers for the 2015 season. Additionally, more Americans may be compelled to enroll in health insurance thanks to the significant increase in penalty fees for non-compliance this year. Last year, the penalty for not having insurance was the greater of $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s adjusted gross income. This year’s spike could boost participation.
The Gallup survey is encouraging for supporters of the Affordable Care Act, which has been open to criticism from conservatives since its inception. Other Gallup polls conducted over the past few months indicate general satisfaction with healthcare options under the new law.