Number of U.S. People without Health Insurance Shows Big Increase, First Since 2009

Published on September 10, 2019 by Athena Pallas

In news that has reignited criticism of President Trump’s health care policies and his attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, today the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that nearly 2 million more people did not have health insurance in the year after President Trump took office. Not only is that number significant, it marks the first time the number of the uninsured has increased since 2009, meaning it is also the first increase since the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, went into effect. The statistics came from a U.S. Census Bureau Survey, the results of which were released today, including the nearly 2 million person increase in the uninsured in 2018 compared to 2017.

The Trump administration has made repeated efforts both to repeal and to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Famously, Republicans’ attempt to repeal the law when Republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress failed when then Senator John McCain (R-AZ) voted against the measure with a thumbs down that led to an audible gasp in the Senate. Part of the problem there has been that Republicans, including Trump, have yet to reveal specifics for any sort of viable alternative, with Trump instead making generalized claims, not supported by facts, that Republicans will have a great plan for health care, with better coverage, lower costs, and the retention of the preexisting condition protections that are perhaps the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act.

Undermining the Affordable Care Act has continued to be on the Trump administration’s agenda, from ending the mandate that people have health insurance or face a tax penalty, to taking funding and activity away from educational programs and advertising regarding the availability of insurance on the Obamacare insurance exchange. Democrats today renewed their criticisms of Trump’s handling of health care, which likely contributed to the decline in the insured, with the U.S. Census Bureau Survey indicating that while 25.6 million Americans had no health insurance throughout 2017, 27.5 million Americans had no health insurance coverage throughout 2018. According to ABC News:

The number of Americans without health insurance jumped by nearly 2 million in the year after President Donald Trump took office — the first time in a decade that there has been a year-to-year increase, according to federal data released Tuesday. The data, based on a U.S. Census Bureau survey, swiftly reignited attacks by Democrats on Trump’s handling of health care. …”President Trump’s cruel health care sabotage has left 2 million more people without health insurance, forced to live in constant fear of an accident or injury that could spell financial ruin for their families,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. …According to the Census Bureau, about 25.6 million didn’t have coverage at any point during 2017, the Trump administration’s first year. That number increased to 27.5 million – almost 8.5% of Americans – last year. It’s the first year-to-year increase since 2008 to 2009, according to the report. Added Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York: “The relentless effort by Republicans to sabotage our health care system has resulted in millions of fewer Americans with health insurance and skyrocketing costs for American families.”

Census officials indicated that a significant part of the reduction in the number of insured came from reductions to the number of people on public assistance like Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), likely due to improvements in the economy that would have fewer people qualify as well as due to restrictions put on the receipt of Medicaid in multiple states. What is perplexing, however, is that since the U.S. Census survey shows a 2 million person decrease in the insured, both private and public insurance, it means either that this significant number of people who no longer are on public assistance for health insurance either did not transition to private health insurance through an employer or do not account for the large decrease in the total number of those with health insurance.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.