CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Health

January 23, 2014

Poll finds drop in uninsured rate

WASHINGTON — The nation's uninsured rate dropped modestly this month as the major coverage expansion under President Barack Obama's health care law got underway, according to a closely watched survey released Thursday.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that the uninsured rate for U.S. adults dropped by 1.2 percentage points in January, to 16.1 percent. The biggest change was for unemployed people, a drop of 6.7 percentage points. That was followed by a 2.6 percentage-point decline for nonwhites. Traditionally both groups are far more likely to be uninsured than the population as a whole.

The survey found no appreciable change among young adults ages 18-34. Members of that coveted, low-cost demographic have been ambivalent about signing up so far.

Based on interviews with more than 9,000 people, the Gallup numbers could be the first evidence that core provisions of Obama's much-debated law have started delivering on the promise of access for nearly all Americans.

The overall drop in the uninsured rate would translate to approximately 2 million to 3 million people gaining coverage.

Major elements of the health care law took effect with the new year. Virtually all Americans are now required to get covered or risk fines. Insurers can no longer turn away people with health problems. New state-based markets are offering taxpayer-subsidized insurance to middle-class households.

Medicaid sign-ups are also rising. That's partly because of a program expansion accepted by half the states and partly as a consequence of previously eligible but unenrolled people now forced to comply with the law's individual coverage mandate.

"The uninsured rate had been expected to come down as the Affordable Care Act was implemented," said Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief. "That would be the most reasonable hypothesis."

Nonetheless, Newport said it could take a calendar quarter — three months — to discern a full trend. Other factors could also be behind the shift, including an improving economy.

"It's a drop, but not extraordinary," said Newport. "The glass is half full for proponents of the Affordable Care Act because things are moving in the right direction. But the glass is half empty because things haven't moved much."

The increase in coverage among unemployed people "comports with what the Affordable Care Act was intended to do," he added.

Gallup's numbers are not comparable to various figures cited by the Obama administration, estimates that have ranged as high as 9 million people benefiting.

The administration's numbers include people buying coverage in the new insurance exchanges, Medicaid enrollees and young adults who can stay on a parent's plan until they turn 26. But some of those people may have been insured previously; they either had to switch coverage because of the law or they joined a new plan because it turned out to be a better deal.

The coverage rollout has been a wild ride for Obama and congressional Democrats who battled to pass the law four years ago against lockstep Republican opposition.

The federal enrollment website serving 26 states went down when it was launched Oct. 1, and it took two months to make needed fixes. Meanwhile, at least 4.7 million people had their existing individual policies canceled because those plans didn't meet the law's requirements. Republicans hoped "Obamacare" would implode.

The story still could take unexpected turns because open enrollment season doesn't end until March 31. While the technical problems with HealthCare.gov have largely been cleared up, insurers are still reporting glitches. And consumers getting familiar with the new plans are finding that some tightly restrict their choices of doctors and hospitals.

The Gallup-Healthways survey found that the uninsured rate dropped in January across major subgroups. Women saw a decline of 1.9 percentage points, about three times greater than the 0.6 percentage-point drop for men. Uninsured rates also fell all along the income ladder, with those making $36,000-$89,999 seeing the greatest drop, 1.8 percentage points.

The survey was based on telephone interviews from Jan. 2-19 with a random sample of 9,145 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total national sample, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 percentage point.

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index: http://tinyurl.com/n275l99

 

1
Text Only
Health
  • COMMENTARY: An alternative diagnosis to ADHD: Schoolchildren need more time to move

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011.

    July 18, 2014

  • Guideline: Most healthy women can skip pelvic exam

    No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

    July 1, 2014

  • Sanofi targets fake Viagra market with non-prescription Cialis

    Sanofi sees an attractive opportunity in the rampant market for counterfeit Viagra: luring men away from dodgy online pharmacies with an over-the-counter version of a competing erection drug.

    June 5, 2014

  • Hospital charges to treat chest pain jump 10 percent in a year

    The charge to treat Medicare patients with chest pain at U.S. hospitals rose 10 percent to $18,568 in just a year, the biggest rise seen among the most common inpatient procedures, according to federal data.

    June 2, 2014

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 26, 2014

  • Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work

    A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country's economic malaise.

    May 12, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Helmets won't protect your kids from concussions

    When I was a kid, helmets were for motorcyclists. Now I see children wearing helmets when they're scooting down sidewalks, skating, skiing, sledding and playing soccer. Last week one of my friends saw a helmeted kid power-walking in Prospect Park. You can even buy $40 baby helmets on Amazon, because, according to the product description, "babies will always fall taking their first steps."

    May 2, 2014

  • 400px-Cannabis_Plant.jpg How bad is marijuana for your health?

    The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a study linking recreational marijuana use to subtle changes in brain structure. The researchers, led by Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital, identified increased gray matter density in the left nucleus accumbens and some bordering areas.

    May 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014