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Uninsured Rate Reaches Lowest Level Since 2008

The decline is consistent with the timing of Affordable Care Act requirements for people to purchase health insurance and expectations for young adults to enroll through state or federal insurance marketplaces.

The U.S. uninsured rate has declined to the lowest level recorded since late 2008, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The uninsured rate in the first quarter of 2014 is 15.6 percent and has been declining since the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Gallup. The rate was the highest in the third quarter of last year, at 18 percent.

Even the monthly rates have declined, from 16.2 percent in January 2014 to 15.6 percent in February and to 15 percent in March. The quarterly data represents the average percentage of adults without health insurance since the Affordable Care Act requirements went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Young adult enrollment is a top priority of the Affordable Care Act, and experts say 40 percent of new enrollees must be “young and healthy” for the law to be successful, according to Gallup.

However, quarterly trends from the Healthways Well-Being Index indicate the uninsured rate dropped by about the same amount among adults aged 26 to 64 as it did among those aged 18 to 25. In the first quarter of 2014, the uninsured rate fell to 21.7 percent among 18-to-25-year-olds; 26.4 percent among 26-to-64-year-olds; and 16.1 percent for 35-to-64-year-olds.

On April 1, President Barack Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health insurance plans through federal and state marketplaces. Those who started the enrollment process by the March 31 deadline but were not able to complete it have through April 15, 2014, to file for an extension.

That extension, as well as other provisions of the healthcare law have not yet gone into effect, could cause the uninsured rate to decline even more. 

Gallup determined the first quarter uninsured rate based on interviews with a random sample of more than 43,000 adults in the U.S. It will continue to track the uninsured rate in the coming months.

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