The percentage of Americans who don’t have health insurance continues to grow slowly, increasing slightly since last year according to the latest data from Gallup.

An average of 16.8% of all American adults were uninsured in the first half of 2011, similar to the 16.4% in 2010. This percentage, however, has been edging up each year since 2008, at which time 14.8% of adults were uninsured. The percentage of uninsured residents in all states so far in 2011 is on par with 2010, but in most states remains higher than in 2008.

The number of people without insurance hasn’t increased because Obama’s big health care reform law “failed.” The number of uninsured people has increased because the Affordable Care Act, for the most part, hasn’t started helping people get insurance yet. By design, it will not expand coverage until the year 2014.

The economy won’t produce substantial job growth in the next year and the strain on state budgets means the number of people with Medicaid won’t increase at the state level. As a result, when President Obama is up for re-election in November 2012, more Americans will be without insurance than right before he took office as well as right before he signed his big health care reform into law. While this increase will not be the fault of the “Obamacare,” that ugly statistic is going to make defending the unpopular law difficult.

I can’t stress enough how politically idiotic it was for Democrats to pass a big health care law, but then make it effective only after both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Not only does the lack of tangible benefits make it very hard to defend the law, but starting the coverage expansion earlier would have provided a much needed stimulus for the economy. Starting to phase in the Medicaid expansion in 2011 would have resulted in millions gaining coverage over the next years, injecting tens of billions into the weak economy.

The decision was such political malpractice that if Obama loses narrowly in 2012, his decision to delay coverage expansion earlier should be viewed as one of the most important mistakes that led to his defeat.