Donald Trump derided the Affordable Care Act in the second presidential debate as a “total disaster.” One inarguable success of the 2010 health-care law has been to drive the rate of uninsured Americans to a historic low. That sizeable shift makes it significant that a plurality of the public thinks the uninsured rate is unchanged and that the number of people who know the uninsured rate is at its low point is nearly the same as the number of people who mistakenly think the rate is at an all-time high.
To be specific: The uninsured rate for non-elderly Americans has fallen from about 16.6% in 2013 to 10% in the first quarter of 2016, and 8.6% taking into account seniors who have near universal coverage.
Why don’t more people know this? It’s not that the news media have failed to cover the story. There have been regular news reports about government and private surveys showing progress on this issue because of the ACA.
One factor affecting perceptions could be that a large number of Americans remain uninsured and the public may see these uninsured people among their family and friends or in their community as often or more often than they see the newly insured. Slightly less than 29 million Americans remain uninsured; just under half of those people are eligible for health coverage through the ACA.