National

Mar 10, 2014 8:14 AM by Associated Press

Survey: US uninsured rate drops; health law cited

WASHINGTON (AP) - The rate of U.S. adults who lack health insurance keeps going down, according to major survey tracking the rollout of President Barack Obama's health care law.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, said the share uninsured Americans is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office. The poll found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months - or calendar quarter- of 2013. That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people getting coverage.

There are three weeks left to sign up for health care under Obama's health care program, his signature - and controversial - domestic policy achievement.

Republicans are virtually uniformly opposed to the 3-year-old law and are seeking to make a major issue of it ahead of the November general elections, when control of Congress will be at stake. Opponents consider taxes associated with the law burdensome for businesses and also object to a requirement that virtually all Americans get covered or risk fines. They also point to the numerous glitches that first plagued the health care website created by the Obama administration to help people find coverage.

Gallup said the drop in insured Americans coincides with the start of coverage under the health care law on Jan. 1. The major elements of the law, called the Affordable Care Act, are now in effect. Insurers can no longer turn away people with health problems. New state-based markets are offering taxpayer-subsidized private insurance to middle-class households.

The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.

With the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group, Latinos were expected to be major beneficiaries of the new health care law. They are a relatively young population and many are on the lower rungs of the middle class, holding down jobs that don't come with health insurance.

But the outreach effort to Hispanics got off to a stumbling start. The Spanish-language enrollment website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, was delayed due to technical problems. Its name sounds like a clunky translation from English: "Care of Health." A spot check of the Spanish site on Sunday showed parts of it still use a mix of Spanish and English to convey information, which can make insurance details even more confusing.

All indications point to lackluster Latino numbers, prompting the administration to make a special pitch as the end of open enrollment season approaches on March 31. The president was on Spanish-language television networks last week to raise awareness.

Gallup found the biggest drop in the uninsured rate was among households making less than $36,000 a year - a decline of 2.8 percentage points.

Among blacks, the uninsured rate was down by 2.6 percentage points. It declined by 1 percentage point among whites. But Latinos saw a drop of just eight-tenths of a percentage point.

The survey was based on telephone interviews from Jan. 2-Feb. 28 with a random sample of 28,396 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 error is plus or minus 1 percentage point, larger for subgroups.

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