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9.3 million gained insurance during open enrollment

A new survey finds nearly 10 million Americans gained health coverage during the insurance exchange open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act.
Americans Register For Health Care On Final Day of ACA Enrollment Drive
People stand in the line to register for insurance under the Affordable Care Act in Miami, March 31, 2014.

A new survey finds nearly 10 million Americans gained health coverage during the insurance exchange open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act. 

The RAND American Life Panel survey finds a net gain of 9.3 million Americans obtaining health insurance from September 2013 to mid-March 2014, according to data released Tuesday. For context, that's about the number who tuned in to watch the Daytona 500 earlier this year. That net gain indicates that the percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped from 20.5% to 15.8%.

The numbers reasonably match the findings of a Gallup survey released Monday, which found the uninsured rate in America dropped from 18% in the third quarter of 2013 to 15.6% in the first quarter of 2014

According to the RAND data, those who obtained insurance were most likely to have gained it through employer-sponsored coverage or Medicaid. The study also found 3.9 million Americans enrolled in plans using the insurance exchanges, noting that about 1.4 million of those were previously uninsured.

Analysts found that while their numbers are lower than the 7.1 million enrollees the White House has claimed, that is "at least in part because our data do not fully capture the surge in enrollment" that took place during the final weeks of open enrollment towards the end of March. All told, the data indicates that roughly one-third of those who enrolled using an exchange were previously uninsured.

"Of those who were previously uninsured but are now insured, 7.2 million gained [employer-sponsored insurance], 3.6 million are now covered by Medicaid, 1.4 million have signed up through a marketplace, while the remainder gained coverage through other sources," economists Katherine Grace Carman and Christine Eibner wrote in their assessment.

The report finds that the Affordable Care Act didn't impact the majority of Americans, and that roughly four out of every five people had the same type of health insurance at the beginning and end of open enrollment, including more than 100 million who maintained coverage through their employers. 

Despite the significant attention paid by the president's critics to the problem of canceled plans, the data also shows that less than a million Americans who previously had individual market insurance became uninsured during that period. "While we cannot tell if these people lost their insurance due to cancellation or because they simply felt the cost was too high, the overall number represents less than 1% of people between the ages of 18 and 64," analysts wrote.