Obamacare,  Polling

ObamaCare Poll Watch: Number of Uninsured Young Americans Has Reached a Plateau

According to the latest Gallup Poll.

The percentage of 18- to 25-year-old Americans who do not have health insurance has leveled off at the 24% range, after declining from about 28% after the healthcare law provision allowing adults up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s plan took effect.

The uninsured rate for 18- to 25-year-olds first began to decline in the fourth quarter of 2010 after the provision went into effect in September, falling to 26.3% from 28.0% in the third quarter of that year. It then declined further to 24% in the first quarter of 2011 and has remained at about that level since, with the exception of a slight temporary increase the third quarter of 2011.

The uninsured rate for 26- to 64-year-olds has also leveled off. Although, in contrast to 18- to 25-year-olds, the current uninsured rate for 26- to 64-year-olds has plateaued at a higher rate than in January 2008, when Gallup and Healthways first started tracking Americans’ health insurance coverage. Roughly one in five Americans in this age group report not having health insurance for the past year.

One of the political arguments in support of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is that by either the Supreme court striking down the law or a legislative/executive repeal that the government would be taking health insurance away from younger people who can join their parent’s plan.

Looking at the graph above, it is a whopping 4 per cent at best.

Not much of an argument, is it?

But, in the meantime, look what has happened to private health insurance after ObamaCare passed.

Surprise – employer-based private health insurance has declined and government paid health insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, or military/veterans’ benefits) has increased.

Overall, the percentage of all U.S. adults without health insurance was 17.3% in the first quarter of 2012, similar to its levels for the past year, although clearly lower than in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The increase in the percentage of all Americans who were uninsured in the second quarter of 2011 coincides with Gallup’s decision to include more cell phone-only respondents in the U.S. beginning April 1. Thus, some of the increase in the uninsured could reflect the greater representation of cell phone-only respondents — who tend to be younger — in Gallup samples.

Meanwhile, the percentage of all adults who get their health insurance through an employer has trended down — now at 44.5%. The percentage who have a government plan through Medicare, Medicaid, or military/veterans’ benefits has increased over time — now at 25.3%.

So, what does this all mean?

The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard arguments about the constitutionality of the 2010 healthcare law. During the hearings, the justices raised questions about how and if to save different parts of the health law should they decide against the individual mandate. While the final ruling is months away, if the court should decide to strike down the entire law — which includes the provision allowing those up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s health plans — many young adults who have recently gained coverage would likely lose it.

Still, even as the law remains intact for now, it appears that this part of the law that allows those up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s plan may have reached a saturation point. Although millions of people took advantage of this provision when it first went into effect, it does not seem at this point to be having any additional effect on the uninsured rate among young adults. This may be because all or most of those who qualify and have an interest in taking advantage of the provision have already done so. Or, it could be that only those who are most informed have taken part and many others are still unaware of this provision.