U.S. Uninsured Rate Edging Down in First Quarter
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
The uninsured rate among U.S. adults is 12.3% for the first two months of 2015, down marginally from 12.9% in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The open enrollment period for Americans to purchase a healthcare plan for 2015 through the Health Insurance Marketplace ended Feb. 15, but this deadline was extended to Feb. 22 -- and even longer for some applicants. Many states extended their enrollment deadlines even longer, and this report would not fully reflect those who obtained health insurance right before the deadline.
The uninsured rate for the first two months of the year is down 0.6 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2014. Gallup and Healthways will publish the results for the entire first quarter in early April, and if the downward momentum continues, the drop in the uninsured rate may be slightly larger than this preliminary figure.
The results are based on more than 27,800 interviews conducted from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, 2015, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup and Healthways ask 500 U.S. adults each day whether they have health insurance, allowing for precise and ongoing measurement of the percentage of Americans without health insurance.
The 2015 open enrollment period began on Nov. 15, 2014, and officially ended on Feb. 22 after the Department of Health and Human Services granted an extension past the original closing date of Feb. 15. The deadline was extended only for new participants who had started, but did not finish the enrollment process because of long call center wait times or technical glitches on healthcare.gov. Some states such as New York and Maryland extended this special open enrollment period two weeks to Feb. 28 because of continued website malfunctions. Other states are granting even longer extensions, such as Washington, which is giving residents until April 17 to enroll.
The uninsured rate could decline further in the first quarter if the rate in March -- when more interviews will be completed after most enrollment deadlines have passed -- remains steady or drops even lower. The Obama Administration will also re-open the exchanges from March 15 to April 30 for a special enrollment period aimed at getting those who realize, while paying their taxes, that they must pay a fine for not obtaining healthcare coverage in 2014. This could also drive down the uninsured rate through May. Additionally, Medicaid enrollment is not bound by the open enrollment period, which could allow more uninsured to sign up this month -- and throughout the year if more states choose to expand Medicaid. So far, Arkansas and Kentucky have seen the most improvement in uninsured rates as a result of expanding Medicaid and using state-run marketplaces.
Gallup will report complete first quarter results in early April.