The White House has succeeded in its quest to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance, and the newly insured are younger, lower-paid, and more likely to be Democrats, according to a new set of surveys released Wednesday.
The nation's uninsured rate declined by 3 percent during the Affordable Care Act's open-enrollment period—meaning that as of March an estimated 7.26 million people are insured who weren't in September 2013, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
"It is a safe assumption at this point to attribute at least most of that decline to the ACA," wrote Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, in an email.
A deeper dive into the newly insured population shows they're not any sicker than the general population. A second Gallup survey, conducted among more than 20,000 adults every night since March 4, also shows that the newly insured are among the lowest wage earners in the nation and that they skew younger. Those findings are supported by similar research released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.
Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport said that although a higher proportion of the newly insured are younger when compared with the general population, that's not the case for those who got their insurance on the exchange, and it could be because young people are getting coverage by opting into employer plans or staying on mom and dad's health insurance. The exchange population itself is made up of a higher proportion of older individuals, according to the survey.
All major racial and ethnic groups made double-digit gains in the number of people who had health insurance between the September and March polls, although there wasn't specific data on exchange participation by race or ethnicity. The Health and Human Services Department also has not made that information available.
Age, race, and income aren't the only factors that define the newly insured, however.
"Politics plays a role in everything relating to the Affordable Care Act," Newport said. "It is not surprising to me at any rate that one's political orientation affects one's behavior in relation to insurance."
Republicans made up only 24 percent of the newly insured, as opposed to Democrats, who made up 54 percent. Newly insured Republicans were less likely to have purchased their coverage on the exchange, Gallup found, as opposed to Democrats, who were more likely to have done so.
However, Republicans' attitudes about the effect of the health care law on their families shifted, Gallup found. At the end of February, 73 percent said the health law would make things worse for their family. That dropped about 20 percent by the beginning of April—shifting into the category that the health law would "not make much difference" on their personal fortune.
This article appears in the April 17, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.