WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's health law has led to an even greater increase in health coverage than previously estimated, according to new Gallup survey data, which suggest that about 12 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since last fall.
That is millions more than Gallup found in March and suggests that as many as 4 million people signed up for some kind of insurance in the last several weeks as the first enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act drew to a close.
Just 12.9 percent of adults nationally lacked coverage in the first half of April, initial data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicate, the lowest rate since the survey began in 2008.
Eighteen percent were uninsured in the third quarter of 2013, just before Americans could start shopping for coverage on the new online marketplaces created by the law.
Gallup pollsters cautioned that the data are preliminary, but said it is increasingly clear the health law is responsible for the gains. "It is fair to say it is having a significant impact," said Dan Witters, the survey's research director.
Critics of the law, sometimes called Obamacare, claim it has done little to expand health coverage.
Gallup's latest data, which parallel recent findings from RAND Corp. and the Urban Institute, lump together all coverage gains, including those on the marketplaces as well as through other forms of insurance, such as Medicaid, employer-provided coverage and health plans purchased directly from insurers.
The data also take into account any losses in coverage the law may have brought about by the cancellation of health plans that did not meet new standards.
Urges use of overdose-reversal drug: Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday urged first responders to use an overdose-reversal drug to help save lives amid a nationwide resurgence in heroin abuse, a public health scourge claiming the lives of celebrities and young people alike. When administered in a timely manner, the reversal drug commonly referred to as narcan can restore breathing to someone experiencing a heroin overdose.
Death tolls climbs to 39: Medical examiners have removed two more bodies from the square-mile debris field of last month's devastating Washington state landslide, pushing the death toll to 39 on Wednesday. The three bodies recovered this week have not been identified, keeping the number of people missing at seven.
Ukraine hopes to placate Russia: Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev.