Uninsured Rate Fell to 12.9% by the End of 2014

By the end of 2014, the uninsured rate among American adults was down to just 12.9% compared with 17.1% when the Affordable Care Act's requirement for Americans to be covered went into effect a year prior.

By the end of 2014, the uninsured rate among American adults was down to just 12.9% compared with 17.1% a year ago. Since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for Americans to be covered went into effect, the uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points, Gallup found.

The rate declined across all key demographic groups, but has dropped most significantly among blacks and lower-income Americans (earning less than $36,000 in annual household income). The uninsured rate among both groups has dropped approximately 7 points over the past year.

The only group that saw no change in health insurance coverage were Americans age 65 years and older with just 2% saying they were uninsured.

“The Affordable Care Act has accomplished one of its goals: increasing the percentage of Americans who have health insurance coverage,” Gallup reported.

The research company expects the uninsured rate to drop further as plans purchased during the current open enrollment take effect. As of December 15, more than half (52%) of Americans who had purchased a plan were new enrollees, according to HHS.

The prospect of higher penalties for not obtaining health insurance coverage for 2015 could also prompt more newcomers to purchase plans. In 2015, individuals who do not gain health insurance will be fined whichever is greater: $325 per person or 2% of an individual’s yearly household income.

Gallup previously found that higher fines would compel more uninsured to sign up. If the fine was just $95, only 47% of respondents said they were more likely to get insurance, but when the fine increases to $500, 60% said they were more likely to get insurance.

Other factors that could help lower the uninsured rate: more states expanding Medicaid coverage and the requirement that businesses with 100 or more employees provide health insurance to 70% of workers, which took effect on January 1. In 2016, companies with 50 or more employees will be requires to provided health insurance to 95% of their workers.

“However, closing the health insurance gap may be more challenging this year than last, as those who did not sign up last year may be harder to reach or more reluctant to get health insurance,” Gallup concluded. “Additionally, the open enrollment period will be nearly two months shorter in 2015 than in 2014.”