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Uninsured rate hits 6-year low

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At the end of last month, only 13.4 percent of American adults were without health insurance, say new poll results released on May 5. Falling by 4.6 percent in just the last seven months, this 1-out-of-7 rate is the lowest found by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index since the quarterly poll was first conducted in Jan. 2008.

This pattern of positive numbers didn’t begin until open registration for the Affordable Care Act kicked off late last year, though, when 18 percent of Americans were without coverage. As Gallup notes in its assessment, “This downward trend in the uninsured rate coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in Oct. 2013, and accelerated as the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance coverage approached -- and passed -- for most uninsured Americans.”

Almost half of the improvement – 2.2 of the 4.6 percent drop since Oct. 2013 – occurred in March 2014 alone.

Health coverage was achieved at higher rates by those who needed it most, the poll found. Demographic groups that were highest in rates of uninsured saw the most improvement. Since the fourth quarter of 2013, the uninsured rate of African Americans fell 7.1 percent from 20.9 to 13.8; Hispanics dropped 5.5 percent to 33.2; and low-income without health coverage declined 5.5 percent to 25.2.

Improvements were found in every state, but much more in those that accepted other insurance expansion tools. For example, the 29 states rejecting Medicaid Expansion only saw an average 0.9 percent drop in the number of uninsured citizens, Gallup reports, as of the end of 2014’s first quarter.

In the six-month filing period that ended in April, 8 million Americans signed up for health insurance through the ACA. An additional 8 million enrolled in expanded Medicaid or non-exchange plans in the 21 states and Dist. of Columbia that accepted those programs; another 3 million under the age of 26 are now included in their parents’ insurance.