The percentage of uninsured Americans fell by 1.2 percentage points since a major part of the Affordable Care Act kicked in, Gallup Poll reported Thursday in a survey that quickly became mired in the partisan debate over the law.
Liberals were quick to suggest a causal link between the poll numbers and the implementation of the individual mandate that requires people to buy insurance. Conservatives called it coincidence.
Which is it?
Gallup’s editor in chief, Frank Newport, said it isn’t clear.
“We cannot establish for sure that there’s a causation. We need to be very careful to say that,” Newport said.
“It certainly is a reasonable hypothesis that it’s related to the act. But we certainly can’t say that with certainty,” he said.
A look at Gallup’s graph, showing the spikes and valleys of insurance rates, shows why Newport is so cautious.
Though the uninsured rate in the 9,000-person survey now stands at 16.1 percent – a decline from 17.3 percent in December – the rate has been declining since a record high percentage of 18.6 percent that occurred in mid-2013.
And the current 16.1 percent is almost exactly the rate in January 2011: 16.2 percent. The lowest uninsured rate in the survey was 13.9 percent, in the third quarter of 2008. It precipitously rose from there (before President Obama took office).
“There are ups and downs. That’s why we’re cautious,” Newport said.
“It [the uninsured rate] is moving in the right direction from the ACA proponents’ perspective,” Newport said. “But we’re going to have to wait for months to see what the long-term impact is.”