New poll shows dramatic Q3 2015 uninsured rate decreases


November 5, 2015

With the 2016 Affordable Care Act (ACA) Open Enrollment Period (OEP) well under way, an influential new poll shows that rates of uninsured American are falling. The nation’s third quarter 2015 (Q3 2015) uninsured rates dropped to 11.6 percent, compared to Q4 2013’s 17.1 percent. The researchers also found impressive drops in uninsured rates among minorities. And, more American adults now have fully paid health coverage, compared to the period before the ACA’s start.

These declines were among the notable findings of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Among U.S. adults’ (18 and over) uninsured rates, the researchers found that the uninsured rate was 11.6 percent in the Q3 2015. In Q1 2015, the rate was 11.9 percent, while in Q2 2015, it was 11.4 percent.  Overall, the uninsured rate declined 5.5 percent since Q4 2013; this was just before the ACA’s Jan. 1 start.

Reductions by age, race and overall

It is assumed that most uninsured Americans don’t want insurance or are unemployed, but these are misconceptions. Actually, research suggests that they’re generally poor, working families who can’t afford or don’t have access to health coverage. While the 2016 OEP is now underway, coverage will not begin until Jan. 1, 2016.  Any impact on uninsured rates may not be seen until Jan. 31, when the OEP ends. Enrollment rates are dropping with each year’s OEP. It may also be difficult to persuade or educate uninsured Americans about purchasing health coverage.

Since late-2013, uninsured rates have dropped for all key subgroups. However, the largest decreases were shown to be among racial and ethnic minorities and lower-income Americans. For Hispanics, 3Q 2015 uninsured rates dropped 29.0 percent, compared to 19.3 percent in 4Q 2013. Meanwhile, the uninsured black rate fell 7.5 points in this same period

In regard to age, 26-34-year-old Americans showed the largest drop in uninsured rates, falling 8.3 points since Q4 2013. Next were 18-25-year-olds, with a 7.6 percent decrease. The researchers only polled those up to age 64, as those 65 and older qualify for Medicare. Determining age-based uninsured rates is useful for assessing insurance type changes. It was revealed that among those 18-64, 21.2 percent had fully paid coverage, either by themselves or a family member; in Q4 2013, it was 17.6 percent.

Why these poll findings matter

Since 2008, the Gallup polling organization and Healthways, a respected healthcare company, have conducted this joint study. For these third-quarter results, the researchers conducted about 45,000 telephone interviews with U.S. adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2015. On a daily basis, the subjects were asked whether they were insured, allowing for precise and ongoing results.

This poll provides a long-term, ongoing, accurate measurement of the percentage of Americans with and without health insurance. It spotlights views regarding health and well-being, at the local, state and national levels. “Well-being” is determined by five specific factors: sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community and physical health.

These findings are crucial for the healthcare industry, as improved well-being is associated with healthcare cost decreases and worker productivity increases. This, in turn, boosts organizational and community competitiveness improve, as well.