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In U.S., 13% More Have Gov't Healthcare Since Recession Began

In U.S., 13% More Have Gov't Healthcare Since Recession Began

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than one-quarter of American adults reported having government health insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, or military/veterans' benefits) in August. This number is up 13% since Gallup and Healthways started tracking the measure in January 2008, a month after the recession began. At the same time, 9% fewer Americans are covered through their employer.


Broadly speaking, government health coverage has been steadily rising since the start of the recession, while employer-based insurance has been declining. Concomitantly, the number of uninsured Americans has gone up.

The percentage of American adults who have government health insurance rose above the 23% range for the first time in August 2008 (24.0%), crept above 25% in May 2009, and then stayed mostly in the high 24% range. However, the figure has been higher than 25% for the past five consecutive months.kwsm63dpxkuny8zckaq6ma.gif

The 45.5% of Americans with employer-based coverage ties June for the lowest on record and is lower than 47.9% in August 2009, 48.4% in August 2008, and 50% in January 2008.

Comparing yearly averages reveals that Americans are slightly less likely so far in 2010 to have employer-based health insurance than they were in 2009 and significantly less likely than they were in 2008. The inverse is true for those with government coverage, with the percentage increasing each year.

An average of 16.3% of Americans are uninsured so far in 2010, about the same as last year, but significantly more than in 2008.

Bottom Line

One specific program is not driving the increase in the government's healthcare rolls. Additional Gallup data show that the percentages of Americans with Medicare, Medicaid, and military/veterans' coverage are each up so far in 2010 compared with past years, though the percentage with Medicare has risen slightly more than the other two programs. The new healthcare law passed in March of this year has yet to significantly affect these programs, but numerous provisions are getting underway, with others set to start Sept. 23 and more over the next several years. Increased access to Medicaid, banning discrimination against Americans with preexisting conditions, and the creation of health insurance exchanges, all of which are set to take effect in 2014, will have an impact on the state of healthcare coverage in the country. Gallup and Healthways track Americans' healthcare coverage daily and will continue to monitor and report changes in the months and years ahead.

Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 1-31, 2010, with a random sample of 30,189 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

About the Gallup-Halthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

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