Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The number of Americans without health insurance grew last year by more than 3 million people, the largest increase of uninsured since the Affordable Care Act implementation, according to Gallup data.
According to Gallup data released Tuesday, the number of Americans without health insurance rose by 1.3 percentage points in 2017. The biggest declines in coverage were people between 18 and 25 years old, as well as black and Hispanic people and those with annual household incomes of less than $36,000.
Information released by Gallup said the uninsured rate "remains well below its peak" of 18 percent measured in the third quarter of 2013, prior to the implementation of the ACA's healthcare exchanges and the health insurance mandate. In 2016, the number of uninsured hit a record low in the fourth quarter, down to 10.9 percent.
Fewer insurance companies offering plans through ACA exchanges and a subsequent lack of competition driving up prices both may have contributed to the rise in uninsured people, Gallup speculated.
"This may have caused some Americans, especially those who failed to qualify for federal subsidies, to forgo insurance," a Gallup news release said.
Also, media coverage about healthcare policies may have led some to question whether they would face a penalty by the government if uninsured, according to the poll.
Last year, Congress made several attempts to repeal or replace the healthcare law, ultimately passing a bill in December that repealed the required individual mandate.
Without the requirement, rates of uninsured could continue to rise.
"Rising insurance premiums, which are expected to continue to increase, could also result in some Americans forgoing health coverage. Young adults will be most likely to go without health coverage, meaning that they will no longer help offset the costs of older, less healthy adults -- which will drive up premiums even more," Gallup predicted.
Poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. The poll used a random sample of 25,072 adults. Margin of error is 1 percentage point.