By Curtis Skinner
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The percentage of Americans without health insurance dipped to its lowest in nearly six years due in part to U.S. President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, commonly known as Obamacare, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday.
Some 15.6 percent of Americans lacked health insurance in the first three months of 2014, down from a high of 18 percent in late 2013, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey.
“‘Obamacare’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,” the report said.
Black and low-income Americans saw some of the most pronounced drops in the uninsured rate, with declines of more than 3 percentage points.
Hispanics remained the group most likely not to be insured, with more than one in three individuals lacking coverage, though the level dropped nearly 2 points in the first quarter, according to the poll of 43,500 adult Americans between January and March. It has a margin of error of 1 percentage point.
The percentage of Americans without health insurance has generally trended upward over the past six years. Gallup began tracking insurance coverage in 2008, starting at a low of 14.5 percent and increasing every subsequent year except for 2012.
Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain coverage or face a fine, went into effect in January and the law’s first enrollment period ended March 31. The government granted a deadline extension into April for those who faced technical difficulties while signing up.
The White House last week reported a total of 7.1 million private insurance enrollments through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, exceeding most expectations, despite a troubled rollout in October 2013.
An additional 3 million signed up for Medicaid, government-provided health insurance for low-income people, the administration said Friday, bringing the total number of sign-ups to over 10 million.
Republicans have consistently campaigned against the law, making at least 50 attempts to repeal it since it was signed in 2010. Opposition to Obamacare also figures prominently in many 2014 midterm Congressional campaigns.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not yet released its April enrollment report, Gallup researchers said, but the survey’s findings matched the government’s last figures.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)