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Uninsured rate plunges to 12.9 percent

Decline attributed to Affordable Care Act provisions

Good news to kick off 2015: The uninsured rate dropped to 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Gallup. The rate was 13.4 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and 17.1 percent one year ago.

While the uninsured rate has declined across the board, its most significant drop-off rate was among blacks and lower-income Americans. Uninsured rates for these groups dropped 7 and 6.9 percentage points, respectively, Gallup found.

For those aged 16 to 64, the uninsured rate dropped from 20.8 percent a year ago to 15.5 percent. Many of these individuals purchased coverage through self-funded plans or Medicaid.

Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect and required Americans to purchase health insurance, the overall uninsurance rate has dropped 4.2 points--and Gallup predicts this number will continue to plunge.

As of right now, 6.6 million Americans have purchased insurance or re-enrolled in a plan via the federal exchange since open enrollment kicked off Nov. 15, 2014, according to recent Department of Health and Human Services numbers.

The employer mandate that went into effect Jan. 1--which requires employers with more than 100 full-time workers to offer both affordable and comprehensive plans to their employees--may help further decrease the rate of those uninsured, suggested Gallup.

Per the recent results, it appears that "the ACA has accomplished one of its goals: increasing the percentage of Americans who have health insurance coverage," Gallup concluded.

While some of the good news can be attributed to improvements in the economy, "it's hard to deny that the sharp reduction in the uninsured in 2014 was anything but the law," Gary Claxton from the Kaiser Family Foundation told the New York Times.

For more:
- here's the Gallup results
- check out the HHS announcement
- read the New York Times piece

Related Articles:
Companies coping with employer mandate
Medicaid expansion roundup: Where are all the states now?
Uninsured rate keeps falling with help from exchanges, data show