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Uninsured Rate at Five-Year Low While Obamacare Unpopular

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May 5 (Bloomberg) -- Obamacare reduced the percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance to its lowest point since 2008 even as the law remains unpopular with the public, separate surveys showed.

The share of American adults without health insurance declined to 13.4 percent in April from 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014, Gallup said, attributing the reduction to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. About 8 million Americans signed up for private health plans using the law’s new insurance exchanges. The uninsured rate is the lowest in Gallup’s survey since the 14.4 percent reported in the second half of 2008.

Obama administration officials often cite the Gallup survey as evidence of the law’s effect. The government hasn’t produced an estimate of any reduction in the uninsured rate, or said with precision how many people who signed up in 2014 didn’t have insurance last year. Despite gains in coverage, the law remains unpopular with a majority of Americans, according to a separate survey released today.

“The recent surge in sign-ups for the new health-care exchanges has had little impact on public opinion about the Affordable Care Act,” the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press said in its survey. “In fact, the share disapproving of the law is as high as it ever has been in the four-year history of the law.”

Pew Numbers

Pew found that 55 percent of registered voters disapprove of the law. The research was co-sponsored by USA Today, and the margin of error was plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

A separate survey published by the Christian Science Monitor today showed a seven-percentage-point improvement in public opinion of the health law since March. About 47 percent of Americans now support the law with an equal number opposed, the newspaper said. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The percentage of American adults without insurance equates to about 32.3 million people without coverage, Leticia McCadden, a spokeswoman for Gallup, said in an e-mail.

The number of uninsured adults has declined from the high-water mark in Gallup’s survey of 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013, before the health law’s exchanges opened Jan. 1 and Medicaid, the program for low-income people, was expanded to cover more people earning poverty-level wages.

The uninsured rate for Latinos remain “the highest by far across key demographic groups,” with 33.2 percent lacking health coverage as of April, Gallup reported. The Obama administration has acknowledged difficulty persuading Latinos to sign up for coverage under the law.

Young Adults

The Gallup data “do not show a disproportionately high rate of decline among younger Americans,” a key target of the health law. Youth enrollment in the law is treated as a proxy for healthy customers, a key concern for insurers who are forbidden as of Jan. 1 from denying coverage to sick people.

About 28 percent of the 8 million in private exchange plans are ages 18 to 34, the government said in a report last week.

The Gallup findings are based on a random telephone survey of 14,704 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

“We are very pleased to see more than 8 million people enroll in the health insurance marketplace and to see the rate of uninsurance drop so significantly,” Erin Shields Britt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in an e-mail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at Andrew Pollack, Bruce Rule

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