Uninsured rate hits two-year low

A volunteer counselor with Insure Central Texas uses a chart to help explain health insurance option, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The percentage of adults without health insurance in the United States fell this month to the lowest level since the end of 2012 as the core provisions of Obamacare took effect, a Gallup poll found.

The uninsured rate dropped to 16.1 percent in the Jan. 2-19 poll, from 17.3 percent in December, according to the Gallup- Healthways Well-Being Index.

The ability to extend health care to most of the nation’s 48 million uninsured will be a main measure of success for the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The people benefiting most so far appear to be those who are unemployed, where Gallup said the uninsured rate fell 6.7 percentage points.

“The unemployed remain the subgroup with the highest uninsured rate at 34.1 percent, but the initial decline among this group suggests the health-care law may be working as intended for unemployed adults,” Jenna Levy, a methodologist at Gallup, wrote in the report.

The uninsured rate also fell more for nonwhites and for those 35- to 64-years-old. Gallup said it couldn’t determine whether the declines were attributable to Obamacare or to broader trends.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Joanne Peters, didn’t immediately comment on the findings.

The Affordable Care Act, which mainly took full effect Jan. 1, marks the largest U.S. expansion of health insurance in more than 40 years. The law set up government-run insurance exchanges where Americans can buy private health plans with the help of federal tax credits. It also expanded eligibility in some state- run Medicaid programs for the poor.

About 2.2 million Americans signed up for private health plans on federal- and state-run insurance exchanges from Oct. 1 through Dec. 28, according to the Obama administration. About 1.6 million others who sought coverage in the exchanges were determined to be eligible for Medicaid.

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