Rate of Americans without insurance rises to 4-year high as Trump weakens Obama health law, Gallup survey finds

  • The uninsured rate climbed to 13.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, Gallup says.
  • It was the highest level since 2014.
The waiting room at Mary's Center in Washington, DC on February 24, 2014. Mary's Center is a non-profit health center for the underserved, uninsured or underinsured.
Linda Davidson | The Washington Post | Getty Images
The waiting room at Mary's Center in Washington, DC on February 24, 2014. Mary's Center is a non-profit health center for the underserved, uninsured or underinsured.

The percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance reached a four-year high in the last quarter of 2018, but was still well below the peak level seen before Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, a new Gallup survey published Wednesday found.

The national uninsured rate climbed to 13.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, its highest level since the first quarter of 2014 when the rate reached 13.4 percent, according to data the compiled from Gallup. Women and adults under the age of 35 reported among the highest rates without insurance at 12.8 percent and 21.6 percent, respectively, the survey found.

The number of people lacking insurance reached its highest point in the third quarter of 2013 at 18 percent and steadily improved over the next three years, according to Gallup, which has been tracking uninsured rates since 2008. But the uninsured rate has been on the rise every quarter since the last two quarters of 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president.

Uninsured rates rose by more than 3 percentage points across the West, Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S. while the rate along the East was effectively unchanged.

Gallup's numbers are based on a 28,000 sample size of randomly selected U.S. adults. The data is collected as part of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

The Trump administration's policies to weaken the ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, could be playing a role in the rising uninsured rate, Gallup said in the report. Trump, who failed to rally support for an ACA repeal in 2017, cut Obamacare's funding, shortened the open enrollment period to sign up for coverage, and allowed American's to stay in cheaper and less-comprehensive short-term health plans.

Congress and the Trump administration in December 2017 also eliminated the ACA penalty for those who choose not to buy health insurance. The elimination of the so-called individual mandate is being used as a reason by a Texas federal judge to rule the entire health-care law unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor has granted a stay of his ruling while it is being appealed.

Gallup said other factors in the rising uninsured rate could include higher premiums in many states for those who buy insurance on their own and insurers deciding to pull out of some markets, resulting in fewer choices and less competition.