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Decline in medical insurance enrollment sadly predictable

The numbers are in, and it does not look good for health care. Or the American people.

According to figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 2 million fewer residents in this country have health insurance when compared with a year ago. The disturbing decline comes as little surprise when one considers the many factors conspiring against Americans seeking regular medical care.

With a president pathologically committed to erasing his predecessor’s legacy, congressional intransigence on an issue that should be a right rather than a privilege, and an insurance industry that routinely puts profits ahead of people, it would be shocking if the number of insured people were doing anything but declining.

Statistically speaking, the uninsured rate only moved from 7.9 percent to 8.5 percent during 2018, but the real-life ramifications mean that a lot more people no longer have health insurance, a fact that can lead to devastating financial consequences should a family face a serious medical event. In fact, Census Bureau officials now peg the number of uninsured individuals in the United States at 27.5 million, a national embarrassment for a country that boasts the strongest economy in the world.

The numbers are particularly troubling when it comes to children, who saw a jump in uninsured numbers from 4.9 percent to 5.5 percent, a tragic reversal after years of declining rates. Looking at it another way, approximately 4.3 million children are uninsured, again an obscenity in a nation of such wealth. These numbers represent a giant step backward, as we are now seeing the highest level of uninsured individuals since 2009, the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

The statistics also show that the administration’s efforts to reduce legal immigration have had a negative impact on the number of insured individuals, with the percentage of Latinos falling off health insurance rosters statistically higher than other ethnic groups. This comes after federal officials moved during the past year to limit the number of legal immigrants coming into this country by tying the likelihood of receiving a green card to whether they may need access to government programs, including Medicaid. For immigration and insurance experts, the decline represents a tragic prophesy fulfilled, as they warned that such requirements would likely lead to people shedding their coverage in the hopes that it would help them stay on a path to citizenship.

Health care experts argue that the Trump administration’s determined efforts to destabilize the Affordable Care Act played a role in the decline. First, it loosened the rules in terms of allowing cheaper health plans that offer correspondingly less coverage. Then it allowed nine states to tie work requirements to receiving Medicaid benefits.

All this comes courtesy of a president who as a candidate promised he would introduce a nationwide plan for insurance that would offer better care at a lower price. That plan, however, never materialized. Instead, Trump seems dedicated to eradicating health care benefits rather than crafting any expansion of such coverage. The tragic result is that ordinary working-class Americans are seeing their health benefits disappear in a cloud of presidential subterfuge.

The American people deserve far better than this. Yes, the ACA was and is flawed, and even its strongest advocates quickly recognized that it would need to be adjusted and shored up. But Republican majorities in both the House and Senate through most of both Obama administrations steadfastly refused to discuss anything that would improve the ACA, instead preferring to take symbolic votes to dismantle the program. In fact, even between 2014 and 2016, when the GOP controlled not only both houses of Congress but the White House as well, Republicans could not muster up a sufficient number of votes to kill the ACA.

As a result, the Trump administration has instead decided to promote the death of the ACA through a thousand cuts, slicing away at Obamacare programs without once proposing any sort of new insurance vision to take its place. It is an unforgivably myopic approach to health care that will ultimately undermine both the physical and fiscal health of the United States.

 


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