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Going Backwards: Gallup Poll Shows Uninsured Adults Rising

Tim Mak

Protester Mark Labarre demonstrates with 'Health Care for America Now' outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) held their annual policy conference, in Washington on March 9, 2010. Labarre worked for 3M for 35 years before he was laid off. UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

None of the components of President Obama’s health care law that have taken effect appear to be affecting insurance coverage of adults over 26, according to a new poll Friday.

The percentage of adults with no health insurance is the highest on record, with 17.3 percent of adults being uninsured in the third quarter of 2011, statistically tying the high set in the second quarter, Gallup found. Three years ago, in the third quarter of 2008, only 14.4 percent of adults lacked health insurance.

Gallup cautions, however, that the record high coincides with a methodological change that samples cell-phone only respondents, which tend to be younger and thus more likely to be uninsured. Thus, some of the increase in the figure could be linked to this change.

One part of Obama’s health care reform that has already drawn results is the change allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26. This has lead to an uninsured rate of only 24.2 percent for 18-25 year olds, down from 28 percent in mid-2010, according to an earlier Gallup poll.

However, while adults from 18-25 have seen an increase in coverage, older adults have not. In fact, 19.9 percent of 26-64 year olds are uninsured, up from 18.1 percent in mid-2010.

Gallup says it appears that some of the new health care reforms that were passed in 2010, including tax credits to help small businesses provide health insurance and the establishment of a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, are not improving the health care coverage of adults over the age of 26.

“(T)he percentage of Americans who are uninsured is on the rise again after remaining fairly steady throughout 2010,” Gallup said. “If more employers stop offering health insurance and the cost of purchasing insurance for individuals remains a barrier, it is possible that the uninsured rate will continue to rise — at least until additional parts of the 2010 healthcare legislation take effect.”

The overall increase in uninsured rates among adults over 26 was matched by a decline in employer-based health insurance coverage.

Since Gallup started tracking health insurance sources in 2008, the percentage of Americans getting insurance from their employer has dropped steadily from 49.8 percent to 44.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

This poll was conducted from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2011, with a random sample of 90,070 adults nationally. The margin of error is plus or minus one percentage point.

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