Uninsured Rate Continues to Fall

A July 2015 report from Gallup confirms that the rate of those without health insurance in the US continues to fall to record low levels. The uninsured rate among this country's adults aged 18 and older was 11.4% in the second quarter of 2015, according to Gallup surveys. This is a reduction from 11.9% in the first quarter of 2015.

The uninsured rate in the fourth quarter of 2013 was 18.0%, a record high. The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces became fully operational during that quarter. The ACA’s requirement for Americans to carry health insurance took effect in the next quarter in 2014.

Since the ACA’s insurance purchasing opportunities and health insurance requirements took full effect, the uninsured rate has declined by over 36%. The Gallup chart below shows the uninsured rate trend since 2008. Gallup reports the second quarter 2015 uninsured rate is the “lowest Gallup and Healthways have recorded since daily tracking of this metric began in 2008.”

The report from Gallup shows continued success of the ACA in providing health to Americans and significantly reducing the uninsured rate. The US uninsured rate was a persistent and growing problem in the years immediately preceding adoption and implementation of the ACA. Economic downturns such as the Great Recession made it worse.

Since the ACA took effect – with its health insurance marketplaces providing shopping options for affordable insurance (including federal tax credits available to most Americans to forego a portion of premium costs), plus expanded Medicaid in half the states – millions of Americans who were uninsured now have the protection and peace of mind that comes with health insurance.

How this specifically affects rural residents in unknown at this time. The Gallup report is aggregate national data. However, it is reasonable to think that rural people, with generally lower rates of health insurance coverage and generally lower incomes to qualify them for the premium tax credits under the ACA, would have seen their uninsured rate significantly reduced. Stay tuned as more rural-specific data become available.

This article is another in the series from Jon M. Bailey, a leading proponent of policy and research into rural family economic security. Jon served as a director of policy and research at the Center for Rural Affairs for years. You can reach him at jonmbailey1@gmail.com.