- Uninsured rate essentially unchanged in third quarter
- Rate drops most among Hispanics and lower-income Americans
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The uninsured rate among U.S. adults aged 18 and older was 11.6% in the third quarter of 2015, essentially unchanged from 11.4% in the second quarter, and down from 11.9% in the first quarter. The uninsured rate has declined 5.5 percentage points since the fourth quarter of 2013, just before the requirement for Americans to carry health insurance took effect in early 2014.
Third-quarter results are based on approximately 45,000 interviews with U.S. adults from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2015, conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup and Healthways ask 500 U.S. adults each day whether they have health insurance, which on an aggregated basis allows for precise and ongoing measurement of the percentage of Americans with and without health insurance.
Sharp Drop in Uninsured Rate Among Minorities
The uninsured rate has dipped for all key subgroups since late 2013, with the sharpest drops occurring among racial and ethnic minorities and lower-income Americans. The uninsured rate among Hispanics is 29.0% in the third quarter, down 9.7 points from the fourth quarter of 2013. Over the same time period, the uninsured rate among blacks fell 7.5 points.
Across age groups, 26- to 34-year-olds have the largest drop in the percentage uninsured. The rate fell 8.3 points for this age group since the fourth quarter of 2013, followed closely by a 7.6-point dip among 18- to 25-year-olds.
More Americans Paying for Own Insurance
To assess changes in insurance type, Gallup and Healthways focus on adults aged 18 to 64 because nearly all Americans aged 65 and older have Medicare. The percentage of 18- to 64-year-olds who are covered through a plan fully paid for by themselves or a family member was 21.2% in the third quarter, up from 17.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013. The percentages of Americans with Medicaid and Medicare insurance also have increased sizably.
Gallup and Healthways began asking Americans about the source of their health insurance using the current question wording in August 2013 in anticipation of shifts in insurance type as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Gallup asks respondents, "Is your primary health insurance coverage through a current or former employer, a union, Medicare, Medicaid, military or veteran's coverage or a plan fully paid for by you or a family member?" In addition, Gallup asks respondents if they have secondary health insurance coverage, and if so, what type of coverage it is. The results reported here are a combined estimate of primary and secondary insurance types.
The steadiness in the uninsured rate in the third quarter is not surprising given that the open enrollment period for 2015 ended in February. Similarly, the uninsured rate also held steady between open enrollment periods last year. Open enrollment through the marketplace exchanges will begin Nov. 1, but coverage for many who sign up during that period will not kick in until January 2016. Therefore, the full effect of the 2016 enrollment period on the uninsured rate may not be evident until the open enrollment period ends on Jan. 31.
While proponents of the Affordable Care Act are likely encouraged by the reduction in the uninsured rate since late 2013, it is unclear how much further it will decline. There was a sharp drop in the uninsured rate when Americans were initially able to purchase health plans through government exchanges in late 2013 and early 2014, but a much smaller drop during the second enrollment period in late 2014 and early 2015. Future reductions may be even smaller as those who still lack insurance may be particularly resistant to getting it or just harder to reach and guide through the process of getting health insurance.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 1-Sept. 30, 2015, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, with a random sample of 45,615 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. Each quarter dating to quarter 1, 2014, has approximately 44,000 respondents. Each quarter from 2008 through 2013 has approximately 88,000 respondents.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.