The 1.3 percentage point increase in uninsured people is the largest in about a decade. It is also the only annual increase in the number of uninsured since the main features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as “Obamacare”, took effect in 2014. These features include an individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty as well as expansion of Medicaid, a Federal-State health insurance program for low-income and needy people, in 24 states.

Gallup estimates that 12.2 percent of American adults were uninsured by December 2017, up from a record low of 10.9 percent at the end of 2016. The firm interviewed over 25,000 adults in the United States between October and December.

Gallup believed some of increase was due to surging healthcare premium costs around the U.S.

“Some insurance companies stopped offering insurance through the [healthcare] exchanges, and the resulting lack of competition drove up the cost of plans for consumers,” said Gallup spokesperson Zac Auter in a statement. “This may have caused some Americans, especially those who failed to qualify for federal subsidies, to forgo insurance.”

The rise in the number of uninsured occurred during the first year under President Donald Trump, a fierce critic of the ACA. There were several attempts in 2017 by Trump and Republicans in Congress to repeal the ACA. While many of the efforts stalled, a bill overhauling the tax code signed by Trump a few weeks ago ended the individual mandate.

“Further, media coverage of the policies to repeal and replace the healthcare law may have caused some consumers to question whether the government would enforce the penalty for not having insurance,” Auter continued.

“Congressional Republicans made several attempts to repeal or replace the healthcare law during 2017, ultimately passing a tax bill in December that repealed the individual mandate.”

However, the number of uninsured is significantly down from its peak of 18 percent of American adults in late 2013, just before the individual mandate kicked in.

Anadolu Agency