Number of uninsured Americans rises for first time in a decade

The number of Americans without health insurance rose last year, marking the first time in nearly a decade the uninsured rate increased, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau published Tuesday.

In 2018, 8.5 percent of the population, or about 27.5 million people, did not have health insurance at any point. That’s almost a 2 million increase from 2017, when 7.9 percent of the population, or about 25.6 million people, were uninsured.

Driving the drop, which came even as the economy continues to expand, was the decrease in people covered by Medicaid, which fell by 0.7 percentage points to 17.9 percent. However, the number of people relying on private insurance through their employers, or directly purchased on the market, did not change.

The rate of Americans without insurance has not fallen since 2009, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Still, the uninsured rate is nowhere near as high as it was prior to the enactment of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. At the time, as the ACA went into effect and the economy began to gradually recover, the uninsured rate dropped to 16.8 percent in 2013.

Critics attributed the sudden drop in insured Americans to the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle the ACA in its entirety. In 2017, Republicans rolled back the tenet that required Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine in the 2017 tax overhaul. Now, the health care law is in the midst of a murky legal battle, with its future uncertain.

Plus, the Trump administration cut funding for navigator programs that are designed to provide outreach, education and enrollment assistance for marketplace consumers from $37 million to $10 million, according to Protect Our Care, a health-care advocacy group.

“Republicans have purposefully created chaos and uncertainty in our health care system,” Leslie Dach, the chair of Protect Our Care, said in a statement. “As a result of their sabotage, nearly 2 million more Americans were uninsured last year. The more Republicans continue to double down on their war on health care, the more we will see further drops in coverage and increased anxiety from Americans over the future of their health care.”

In addition, the percentage of uninsured children under the age of 19 fell by 0.6 percentage points.

President Trump’s crackdown on immigration also seems to be affecting insurance rates. The Census data revealed that the share of Hispanics without coverage surged to 8.7 percent, up 1 percentage point from the year-ago period.