Gallup Says the Uninsured Rate Is Rising. Is It?

WELLINGTON, FL - JULY 13:  Rachel Eisenberg, a registered nurse practitioner, gives Ginger Rae a hug after  her checkup at a Planned Parenthood health center on July 13, 2017 in Wellington, Florida. The U.S. Senate has released its revised health care bill on Capitol hill; the plan includes cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, the country's largest network provider of women's health care, for at least one year.  Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards responded to the new bill by saying ÒWith this latest version of Trumpcare, Americans will pay more and get less, but women will pay the biggest price of all. Slashing Medicaid, cutting maternity coverage, and blocking millions from getting preventive care at Planned Parenthood would result in more undetected cancers and more unintended pregnancies. And it puts moms and their babies at risk. Now is the time for every person who cares about womenÕs health and access to affordable, quality care to speak out and join this fight.Ó  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Say goodbye.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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.

Gallup uninsured rate

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.

National health interview survey.

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.