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Numbers Of Americans With Health Plans Way Up, But States Vary

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Numbers Of Americans With Health Plans Way Up, But States Vary

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Numbers Of Americans With Health Plans Way Up, But States Vary

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Poll numbers are starting to confirm what a lot of healthcare analysts have been predicting. The number of people with health insurance in America is growing, and levels are up significantly more in states that have embraced the Affordable Care Act. Eric Whitney reports on the latest Gallup survey.

ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: Late last year when the healthcare.gov website was having big problems, Republican congressmen like Cory Gardner of Colorado were on the attack. Here's Gardner on MSNBC in November talking about how many people had received cancellation notices telling them their current health coverage didn't meet the law's new standards.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CONGRESSMAN CORY GARDNER: It's 250,000 people in Colorado who have lost their insurance thanks to Obamacare. The president's bill is not working, and it's time that we replace it with something that will work.

WHITNEY: Fast forward to today and the release of a new Gallup poll on the number of uninsured now. Dan Witters works for Gallup.

DAN WITTERS: Colorado's had a net decline in the uninsured as has the United States.

WHITNEY: Witters says the uninsured rate nationwide is about four and a half percent lower now versus a year ago. That was before Americans were required to have health insurance. But the Gallup poll shows a lot depends on where you live. Some states chose to impliment two of the health care law's major but optional mechanisms - to expand Medicaid and to set up their own health insurance marketplaces or exchanges.

WITTERS: Those states that have not embraced those two major mechanisms have had about half of the decline in uninsured. So there's a clear difference in the states that have implemented those mechanisms versus those who haven't.

WHITNEY: States like Mississippi, Missouri and Indiana, which are resisting the law, saw only small declines in the number of uninsured. Kentucky, California and Delaware saw larger drops. The state with the biggest reduction in the number of uninsured was Arkansas which saw a 10 percent drop. Doctor Joe Thompson is Arkansas' Surgeon General.

JOE THOMPSON: So we clearly are having an impact that benefits our citizens, and those other states that have chosen not to make something good happen out of the Affordable Care Act are missing that opportunity on behalf of their citizens.

WHITNEY: Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner declined to comment for this story. Colorado ranks fifth among states that have seen the biggest drop in the number of uninsured, according to the Gallup poll. Gardner is in a close U.S. Senate race and continues to campaign on repealing the federal health care law. Gallup and other polls show that nationwide, most Americans continue to disapprove of the law. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney.

BLOCK: This story is part of a reporting partnership of NPR and Kaiser Health News.

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