Obamacare Is Reducing the Nation’s Uninsured … and Here’s Who’s Getting Covered

Party politics played into who signed up for Obamacare and who didn’t.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) march in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade on January 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Kingdom Day Parade honors the memory of African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and coincides with Martin Luther King Day.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
April 16, 2014, 1:41 p.m.

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.

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