The share of Americans without insurance dropped in the first two months of 2014 to 15.9 percent, down from 17.1 percent in the last three months of 2013, according to a survey of 28,000 Americans by Gallup.
The survey’s authors noted that they cannot definitively conclude that the Affordable Care Act caused the change, but the decline started in the last three months of last year, just as the law took effect.
That followed a steady rise in the rate of uninsured beginning with the financial crisis late in 2008.
The increase in coverage was also most pronounced among the group of Americans targeted by the new law: families and individuals with household incomes below $36,000 a year.
At the same time, consulting giant McKinsey Co., which has conducted four surveys of people who are eligible to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, found that 27 percent of those who signed up in February using the marketplaces were previously uninsured, up from 11 percent in its earlier surveys.
More than 4 in 5 of the people signing up for coverage are qualifying for subsidies, according to the new Obama administration enrollment report.
Many are also older, with just 27 percent of those who signed up in February in the coveted 18-34 age bracket, well below the 40 percent target administration officials have set.
Young, healthy consumers are considered crucial to the long-term sustainability of the insurance marketplaces because they help balance risk, keeping insurance premiums in check.
Most experts believe that the youngest and healthiest consumers will wait until the last minute to sign up.
Those who do not have a health plan by the end of open enrollment may be subject to a tax penalty.
AFP Photo/Karen Bleier