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Uninsured up 3.5 million amid health care uncertainty, survey finds

Griffin Connolly, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Roughly 3.5 million more Americans are uninsured compared to the last quarter of 2016, a new survey found.

An ongoing Gallup-Sharecare survey that has asked at least 500 randomly sampled people each day since 2008 whether they have insurance shared its 2017 third-quarter results Friday.

The uninsured rate among adults was 12.3 percent as of Sept. 30. That's up 1.4 percent from the third and fourth quarters of 2016, when the uninsured rate reached a record low of 10.9 percent.

The number and rate of uninsured Americans will likely continue to creep upward without Congress and President Donald Trump taking steps to "stabilize the insurance markets," according to an analysis of the survey released by Gallup on Friday.

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., struck a bipartisan deal Wednesday to fund the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments Trump said he was ending last week. Their bill would also provide more flexibility to states seeking Section 1332 waivers, which allow states to bypass the 2010 health law's rules under certain conditions.

The president initially signaled support for Murray and Alexander's compromise package as a stopgap to keep U.S. health coverage afloat while Congressional Republicans negotiate to repeal and replace the sweeping 2010 health law commonly called Obamacare.

He has since backtracked.

"While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray -- and I do commend it -- I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies," Trump said Thursday.

Americans who purchase their own plans, likely on the Obamacare exchanges, represented "by far" the largest decline in the insured rate since the end of 2016, the Gallup analysis found. The percentage of adults with self-paid plans has fallen 1.3 points over this period, from 21.3 percent to 20 percent.

The Gallup analysis speculated that that decline is the result of higher premiums and uncertainty about the health law's future.

"Congressional Republicans' attempts to replace the health care law may be causing consumers to question whether the government will enforce the penalty for not having insurance," the analysis said.

Republicans have vowed for seven years to dismantle the 2010 health care law -- which has extended coverage to more than 20 million more people and has plunged the uninsured rate to record lows -- because they say it restricts personal choice and has raised premiums. The GOP Senate failed twice this summer to repeal and replace the law.

Gallup-Sharecare conducted telephone interviews with a random sample of 45,743 U.S. adults from July 1 through Sept. 30 for its latest results. The margin of error is plus- or minus-1 percentage point.

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