The Urban Institute study likely underestimates the number of previously uninsured individuals who have obtained coverage since Oct. 1. That's because 80% of the survey was conducted before the first week of March and therefore likely doesn't fully reflect the enrollment surge leading up to the March 31 deadline.
“I think you can view this as a little bit of a lowball,” said Katherine Hempstead, a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which paid for the study. “If we had been in the field at the end of March, we would have seen a larger decline.”
The Urban Institute began conducting quarterly online surveys to assess the impact of the Affordable Care Act at the start of 2013. There are roughly 7,500 respondents to each questionnaire.
Gruber cautions that any assessment at this point is inherently flawed because there's just not enough data available to judge how the federal healthcare overhaul is changing the insurance landscape. For example, 3.4 million people lost coverage in 2012 because they were no longer employed. Now they will be able to purchase coverage through the exchanges even outside the open enrollment period.
“This is really a three-year evaluation process,” Gruber said. “It's going to take three years for the law really to phase in. People need to just calm the heck down.”
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