New data from a Gallup poll found that the percentage of Americans who do not have health insurance dropped in January. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the number of Americans who say they do not have health insurance fell by about a percentage point during the first three weeks of January, reaching 16.1 percent of adults, or between 2 million and 3 million people.
Analysis of the numbers suggests that the Affordable Care Act may be able to take the credit for the new numbers. One of the program's main goals was to reduce the overall number of Americans who did not have healthcare - an objective that appears to becoming a reality.
While the overall numbers are certainly dropping, a breakdown of the statistics points to the populations that are having the most marked change in their insurance status. The largest change was seen for the unemployed with a drop of 6.7 percentage points followed by a 2.6-point decline among nonwhites. According to NBC News, those two groups tend have a higher likelihood of being uninsured than the overall population.
Other effects of the ACA
Starting on the first of the year, the ACA went into effect, which explains the quick drop in the number of uninsured Americans and the increase of insurance sales. For those who can't afford the health insurance rates even under the ACA, Medicaid is still an option, and one that many have turned to. According to the poll, the number of people who applied for Medicaid also increased. This is likely due to the expansion of the program in about half of the states as well as the fact that those who were un-enrolled were forced to do so under the new individual coverage mandate.
"The uninsured rate had been expected to come down as the Affordable Care Act was implemented," Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, told NBC News. "That would be the most reasonable hypothesis."
He also noted that it will take a full three months until a true trend emerges, as there are certainly other factors that could be at play in this case.
"It's a drop, but not extraordinary," Newport explained. "The glass is half full for proponents of the Affordable Care Act because things are moving in the right direction. But the glass is half empty because things haven't moved much.
It's worth nothing that one-third of the unemployed still say they are without insurance as of January.