The percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance grew in the second quarter of 2017 to 11.7%, up from 11.3% in the first quarter, according to a Gallup survey released July 10. The uninsured rate, measured by Gallup and Sharecare since 2008, had reached a record low of 10.9% in the third and fourth quarters of 2016.
The results for the second quarter of 2017 are based on 45,087 interviews with U.S. adults ages 18 and older from April 1 to June 30, conducted as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Gallup and Sharecare have asked a random sample of at least 500 U.S. adults each day whether they have health insurance since January 2008.
Despite upticks in the uninsured rate in each of the first two quarters of 2017, the percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance is still 6.3 percentage points lower than it was at its peak in the third quarter of 2013. The uninsured rate reached 18.0% that quarter, just before the health insurance exchanges opened in October 2013. Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) individual mandate required Americans to obtain coverage or pay a tax penalty.
Several marketplace factors could be contributing to the recent uptick in the uninsured rate, Gallup says. Rising insurance premiums could be causing some Americans to forgo insurance, especially those who fail to qualify for federal subsidies. Furthermore, some insurance companies are leaving the PPACA marketplace, and the lack of competition could be driving up the cost of plans for consumers. Uncertainty surrounding the health care law also may be driving the increase; the Senate is currently debating a replacement.
Since the last quarter of 2016, the increase in the percentage of uninsured has been concentrated among younger adults. The uninsured rate has risen 1.9 points among those ages 18–25 and 1.5 points for those ages 26–34 since the end of 2016. These young adults are, perhaps, particularly responsive to rising premiums in the individual health care markets, Gallup speculates. For some young adults, the tax penalty for not carrying health coverage may be more financially appealing than paying costly premiums on coverage they need less frequently than older Americans.
From a long-term perspective, young adults ages 18–34 have shown some of the most substantial decreases in uninsured rates since the federal requirement to obtain health insurance coverage took effect, falling about seven points. The decline in uninsured among this group is likely due to a PPACA provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26. Meanwhile, only 2.3% of adults age 65 and older report being uninsured in the second quarter of 2017—nearly unchanged since the last quarter of 2013.
Young adults represent a critical demographic in a robust health care market, since their premiums help offset the higher costs of older Americans who typically use more medical services.
The uninsured rate has also fallen substantially among blacks, Hispanics, and lower-income Americans—three groups with some of the highest uninsured rates prior to implementation of the individual mandate to carry insurance.
Source: Gallup; July 10, 2017.