On Tuesday, Gallup publicized their 2014 year-end results for the answer to the question “Do you have health insurance coverage?” asked in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey. The poll brings good news, as it finds that the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance dropped 3.5 percentage points from 2013 to 2014. According to the national survey, in 2013, 17.3 percent of Americans were without health insurance. In 2014, just 13.8 percent lacked health insurance coverage.
The survey, taken from a representative sample of over 175,000 Americans across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, was conducted from January 2nd to December 30th of last year. Not only did the uninsured rate drop between 2013 and 2014, but it is continuing to drop. For the last quarter of 2014, Gallup found the uninsured rate was just 12.9 percent. The promising new figures also don’t account for all the new enrollments in 2015. 55 percent of Americans who did not have coverage in late 2014, were planning to sign up for coverage during the current open enrollment period.
Predictably, states that expanded Medicaid and also established either a state-based marketplace exchange or a state-federal partnership saw the most dramatic declines in uninsured rates. The nine states that saw the biggest drops in the percentage of adults who were uninsured were all states that expanded Medicaid and established marketplace exchanges.
Arkansas had the most dramatic reduction in uninsured residents. The Arkansas uninsured rate plummeted from 22.5 percent to 11.4 percent from 2013 to 2014. Kentucky’s decline was also dramatic, going from 20.4 percent uninsured to just 9.8 percent. Behind Arkansas and Kentucky, the next largest drops in the percentage uninsured were in Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, California, Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland. Montana and New Mexico rounded out the top ten, tying for 10th place. Of those states, only Montana failed to pass Medicaid expansion.
Gallup found that the uninsured rates dropped an average of 4.8 percentage points, in the 21 states that expanded Medicaid and also set up health care exchanges or partnerships. By contrast, in states that failed to fully implement either or both of these steps, the uninsured rate dropped a smaller 2.7 percentage points.
Massachusetts had the lowest uninsured rate at 4.6 percent. Massachusetts first passed “Romneycare” in 2006, an exchange that bears some similarity to Obamacare, even though Mitt Romney essentially disowned the successful program when he ran for president in 2012. Texas had the highest rate uninsured at 24.4 percent. Republican-controlled Texas has steadfastly opposed any efforts to expand Medicaid. While the uninsured rate in Texas declined slightly from 27 percent in 2013, it still remains the highest uninsured rate in the nation.
The bottom line is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working. One of the primary purposes of the legislation was to provide health insurance to Americans who lacked insurance. Gallup’s numbers reveal that the ACA is doing exactly what it was intended to do. It is reducing the number of Americans who lack health insurance. Millions of Americans who did not have coverage before the ACA was passed, are now insured.
Republicans in Congress can continue to fight tooth and nail to repeal Obamacare. The conservative majority in the Supreme Court could choose to cripple the ACA later this year. However, anyone who is bent on repealing the ACA, must realize that their real goal is to deny Americans access to affordable health care. There is no other way to spin their motives. Obamacare is working. Republicans who want to repeal it do so not because the law is a failure, but because of its remarkable success. They refuse to let the President score any kind of victory, even if it means they will have to rob Americans of much-needed health coverage in the process.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.