Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gallup: The Number of Those Uninsured Is Falling––Why All of the Amazement?

Reading the many press reports about the new Gallup poll estimating the number of the uninsured I couldn't help be surprised by their surprise.

Under the headline, "Obamacare Working?" CBS reported that Gallup found the uninsured rate had fallen to 15.9% in a survey taken during January and February. That was down from 17.1% at the end of 2013––a reduction of 2.5 million adult Americans.

Other news reports have pegged the reduction in the uninsured to be worth as many as 4 million people.

The Los Angeles Times headline said, "Obamacare Meeting Goal of Reducing Number of Uninsured, Data Indicate."

Well, dah!

The Gallup survey is fully consistent with the reports that Obamacare's enrollment is coming in at a tepid rate at best and there are serious questions about the number of uninsured that are buying Obamacare.

So the number of those uninsured dropped by 2.5 million to 4 million?

Avalere Health is estimating that the number of new Medicaid enrollments through January alone is in the range of 2.4 million to 3.5 million.

On this blog last week, I noted the low take-up rate for people eligible for a subsidy, previously insured and uninsured, at only about 15%. Within that low 15% take-up rate there are likely a million uninsured people who bought coverage and would total far less than 10% of the number of those who were uninsured at the end of 2013.

When Obamacare started there were at least 40 million people uninsured and eligible. That number has hardly been dented.

Celebrating a drop in the rate of the uninsured by about a percentage point doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of the surprisingly low take-up rate in both Medicaid and in the insurance exchanges so far. In fact, the Gallup poll confirms, like the McKinsey survey last week, just how little an impact Obamacare is having so far on getting people covered.

Context, context, context.


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