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Gallup Poll Finds Big Drop in Uninsured in Boost to Obamacare

Reporters have been inundated in recent months with spin from the White House and Capitol Hill over all of those sign-ups for health insurance under Obamacare, but a new Gallup poll is hard to dispute.  

The White House has proven amazingly speedy at delivering happy news, and mind-numbingly opaque when cataloguing the caveats.  

Seven millions sign-ups ! No, it’s 8 million! Wait (the GOP screams in a press release blizzard) — those “sign-ups” aren’t all people who have paid (true) and many of them weren’t uninsured to begin with (also true). But there’s a broader picture.  

The Affordable Care Act has many parts, and the exchanges are only one piece. The Medicaid expansion is big and there’s a new mandate that people buy insurance or else they have to start paying a tax. People who in the past have not signed up for insurance on the job to save a few bucks might do so.  

What Gallup’s number puts in one place is the big picture — how many Americans are uninsured?  

And that number has been steadily dropping since the Affordable Care Act started really kicking in late last year:  

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In the third quarter of 2013, an average of 18 percent of Americans didn’t have insurance. It was the highest level in Obama’s presidency. But then it started a big drop. In April, it dropped to 13.4 percent, down from 15 percent in March — and the lowest level since Gallup started measuring in 2008.  

The drop was sharpest among the president’s most loyal supporters: African Americans. Their uninsured rate plummeted more than a third — from 20.9 percent in the fourth quarter to 13.8 percent in April.  

Keep in mind there are nearly 318 million people in the United States, and more than 240 million adults. So a 4.6 percentage point drop is a lot of people — on the order of 10 million adults. (The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate is that the health care law will result in a net of 12 million more people insured in 2014, with that number jumping sharply again next year).  

There’s still room to quibble:  the drop is a less-robust 3 percentage points from the date Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, for example. And it’s only about 1 percent below where it was when the bottom started dropping out of the economy in 2008.  

And there’s still the broader philosophical debate over the law’s cost and its structure, which continues to split the public and isn’t going away.  

It’s also worth noting that Gallup isn’t always beloved in this White House, and Gallup’s rep took a hit when in 2012 its final poll suggested President Mitt Romney. But the latest numbers will have the West Wing smiling today.

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