WASHINGTON POST

Number of those with no health insurance jumps in Trump 1st year


By Noam N. Levey

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans without health coverage, which declined for years after passage of the Affordable Care Act, shot up in President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to data from a new national survey.

At the end of 2017, 12.2 percent of U.S. adults lacked health insurance, up from 10.9 percent at the end of 2016, as President Barack Obama was completing his final term.

The increase of 1.3 percentage points, although modest, marks the first time since at least 2008 that the share of adults without insurance increased from the previous year, according to the report from Gallup, which conducts a widely followed survey asking Americans about their health coverage.

The increase indicates that 3.2 million Americans lost health coverage in 2017, Gallup concluded.

The decline in coverage was most pronounced among slices of the population on which the Obama administration and its allies had focused enrollment efforts: young adults, blacks, Latinos and households making less than $36,000 a year, Gallup found.

The losses follow years of historic insurance gains driven by the health care law’s expansion of coverage, which started being fully implemented in 2014.

National survey data from the federal government and other sources suggest that more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained coverage from 2013 to 2017.

There is increasing evidence that these gains are improving patients’ access to medical care and relieving financial pressure, particularly on poorer households.

A recent study of data from two states that have dramatically expanded coverage, Arkansas and Kentucky, found, for example, that low-income patients with chronic illnesses are now much more likely to seek recommended care.

By contrast, there has been significantly less improvement among such patients in Texas, which has not expanded coverage fully through the health care law.

But many Republicans, including leading Trump administration officials, have dismissed the coverage gains as meaningless. They have argued that the coverage provided under the health care law is unaffordable.

Trump came into office last January pledging to roll back the law, commonly called Obamacare. His administration undertook a sustained campaign in 2017 to discredit the law while congressional Republicans tried to repeal it.

The repeal campaign failed. But it helped weaken health insurance markets around the country, particularly in regions that already had few insurers and higher prices than the rest of the country.

noam.levey@latimes.com