The uninsured rate among U.S. adults has reached its highest level in roughly four years, Gallup reported on Wednesday. The pollster found that 13. 7 percent of Americans over the age of 18 lacked health coverage during the last three months of 2018, a sharp uptick that suggests Republican efforts to peel back the Affordable Care Act could be taking a toll on the insurance markets.
If correct, the numbers would also signal a serious reversal of the coverage gains made under the Obama administration. Before the health care law’s major pieces went into effect during 2014, the uninsured rate peaked at 18 percent in Gallup’s survey. But in the first quarter of 2008, it stood at 14.6 percent, not far from today’s mark.
But as Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Larry Levitt noted earlier on Wednesday, it’s a bit unclear what’s actually happening with the uninsured rate, because different sources of data keep showing different patterns. Gallup’s report is the most up-to-date, but their previous polls haven’t entirely matched the results from government surveys. Where Gallup showed the uninsured rate rising through the first half of 2018, for instance, the National Health Interview Study showed it holding steady.
The Census Bureau’s data complicates things a bit further. Its results from the American Community Survey showed that the uninsured rate among adults in 2017 was lower overall than what Gallup found, but rose by 0.2 percent. Last year’s Current Population Survey also showed a roughly 0.2 percent increase, but that was within the survey’s margin of error.
So Gallup’s findings aren’t exactly definitive. But they suggest it’s possible the uninsured rate spiked a bit near the end of last year. If so, it may well have had to do with the Republican Party’s move to kill off Obamacare’s individual mandate, which had required all Americans to buy coverage or pay a tax. Although the rule technically remained in place last year, at least some Americans probably figured they’d roll the dice and stop paying for their coverage, assuming the Trump administration wouldn’t actually penalize. Unfortunately, we won’t have have high quality information from the government that can confirm or rebut Gallup’s findings for several months. In the meantime, though, Republicans can rejoice in a partial sign that they’ve accomplished one of their only ostensible health policy goals: Cutting the number of people with insurance.
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