A growing share of Americans got health insurance as sign-up season for President Barack Obama’s health care law came to a close last month, a major survey released Monday has found.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provides independent validation for White House claims that the law is expanding access, particularly for working people with no coverage on the job. But the improvement, though substantial, doesn’t appear as large as some of the numbers claimed by the law’s supporters.
Gallup found that the share of adults without health insurance shrank from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent for the first three months of 2014.
The decline of 1.5 percentage points would translate roughly to more than 3.5 million people gaining coverage.
“The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ‘Obamacare,’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance,” said Gallup’s analysis of the findings.
The survey is important because it combines the quick turnaround of media polls with extensive outreach usually seen in government research. Gallup interviewed more than 43,500 adults, or more than 40 times the number in a typical national media poll.
Coming a week after the close of the health care law’s first enrollment season, Gallup’s numbers suggest a more-modest impact on coverage than statistics cited by the Obama administration.
The administration says more than 7 million have signed up for subsidized private plans through new insurance markets. Additionally, 3 million previously uninsured people gained coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion.
Millions more remain potentially eligible for marketplace coverage under various extensions issued by the administration.
However, the administration’s numbers are not comparable with Gallup’s.
The White House figure of 7 million-plus insurance exchange sign-ups includes insured people who switched their previous coverage, as well as people who have not paid their first month’s premium, and who therefore still would be uninsured.
Also, Gallup is counting just adults, while the administration figures include children as well.