The number of people who were uninsured for at least part of last year dropped to a low not seen in decades.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went out to survey the insurance landscape during the first nine months of 2014, it found that only 11.9% of respondents indicated they were uninsured.
That percentage had hovered in the high teens and low 20s since at least the mid-1990s.
The preliminary data release from the National Health Institute Survey comes just weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in King v. Burwell, the case that considers whether the government can provide subsidies to individuals who purchase insurance from a federal marketplace.
As many as 13.4 million people in 37 states could lose subsidies if the court rules against the Obama administration, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Across the country, the number of people who purchased individual coverage from an exchange has been rising, the survey found, from 1.4% in the first quarter of 2014 to 2.5% by the third quarter.
Adults ages 30 to 64 were more likely than younger adults to have purchased their health insurance from an exchange. In the third quarter of last year, 3.4% of older adults had purchased an exchange plan, compared with 2.3% of 18- to-29-year-olds. That could be partly explained by the Affordable Care Act provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents' health plan until they turn 26.
People at all income levels gained insurance, but the increase was greatest among those with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Among adults with incomes between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level—who would be most likely to qualify for subsidies—the number of people with private coverage increased to 37.9% during the survey period, up from 33.4% the previous year.
About 63% of the population under age 65 was covered by private health insurance at the time of the survey.
Men were more likely to be uninsured than women in all age groups, and the number of uninsured adults, of both sexes, was highest in the 25-to-34 age group.
Although the number of uninsured children from middle-income homes remained steady at 4%, children living below or closer to the poverty line saw a gain in insurance coverage.
For children living below the federal poverty level, the number of those who were uninsured fell to 6.1% in 2014 from 7.8% the previous year. For children in a household with income between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level, the number of uninsured fell to 9.1% from 10.6%.
The survey also found that the number of individuals with high-deductible plans continued to increase—both for those with health savings accounts and those without them. In the first nine months of 2014, 23.6% of adults under age 65 had a high-deductible plan without a health savings account, up from 22.2% the previous year. Another 13.1% had a high-deductible plan with an HSA, up from 11.7% in 2013.
Although the preliminary results did not provide a detailed state-by-state breakdown, they did show that insurance coverage is now highest in the Northeast and Midwest, and lowest in the Census Bureau's South Atlantic region and West South Central region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
And as a group, states that were moving forward with Medicaid expansion had fewer uninsured residents than those that were not expanding eligibility for the program. The number of uninsured in the former group was 11.5% for people under age 65, representing a 3.4 percentage-point decline from 2013, compared with 16.3% in the latter group of states, a 2.1 percentage-point drop.