Gallup: Uninsured rate climbs to 12.3% in Q3

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Dive Brief:

  • The share of U.S. adults who lack health insurance inched up 0.6 percentage points to 12.3% in the third quarter of 2017 over the previous quarter, a new Gallup poll shows.
  • The uninsured rate — 1.4 points higher than at the end of last year (3.5 million more Americans) — is now the largest since the 2014 fourth quarter when it was 12.9%.
  • The biggest decline is among individuals with self-paid plans, which fell 1.3 points to 21.3% since the end of 2016. The poll — part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index — draws on interviews with 45,000 U.S. adults between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Dive Insight:

The numbers are somewhat alarming given the record low 10.9% uninsured rate in the second half of last year. Still, the current rate is well below the 18% high seen in Q3 2013, before the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) insurance exchanges and individual mandate took effect.

After adults with self-paid plans, the biggest change is among Americans with Medicare coverage, down 0.5 percentage points to 7.1%.

Factors contributing to the recent rise in uninsured, according to Gallup, include the lack of competition and rising premiums as payers exit the exchanges, and uncertainty about the ACA’s future.

With President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers attempting to sabotage the ACA, the number of uninsured is likely to continue to rise. Earlier this month, Trump signed an executive order loosening health plan benefit requirements and said he would discontinue cost-sharing paymentsto insurers. The combined moves will undermine the exchanges and allow payers to offer skimpier plans with more out-of-pocket costs.

Congress also let pass it Sept. 30 deadline for reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage for nearly 9 million children. While Congress has vowed to pursue legislation, states are concerned a delay in reauthorization could cause federal funds, which pay for most of the program, to run dry.

The Gallup findings are somewhat in line with a recently released National Center for Health Statistics survey, which found the percentage of all uninsured Americans dropped to 8.8% in the first quarter of this year versus a year ago. Among adults between 18 and 64, the uninsured rate was 12.1%, 5.3% of children were uninsured.

Hospitals, many of them already struggling, are bracing for more uncompensated care as Trump and Republicans angle to roll back Medicaid expansion. A new formula for calculating uncompensated care payments is also fueling industry concerns. The formula, part of the Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System, would increase disproportionate share hospital payments to $6.8 billion, or about $800 million more than in fiscal year 2017, but the American Hospital Association has called the worksheet used to calculate the payments confusing and not always accurate.

In addition, the CMS has said FY2018 uncompensated care payments for all hospitals will be $2 billion below the current level. Between 2018 and 2025, uncompensated care payments are expected to decline by $43 billion.

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