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Uninsured Americans increased even before pandemic, Census finds



The number of people without health insurance increased last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to new federal figures released Tuesday.

The Census Bureau found nearly 30 million people were not covered by health insurance at the time they were interviewed in 2019, up from 28.6 million in 2018. 

The number of uninsured Americans has been increasing for the past three years, after seeing a massive decline in the wake of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Census report, there has been an increase of more than 2 million uninsured people since 2016. The number of uninsured people decreased by 20 million after the law was passed in 2010.

However, because of the law’s large coverage gains, all states and the District of Columbia still had a lower uninsured rate in 2019 than in 2010.

The report did not speculate why the numbers have been rising, but some experts point to a steady attack on the health law by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans. 

The law’s individual mandate, which requires people to have health insurance or pay a fine, was eliminated as part of the GOP tax bill.

Federal advertising and outreach for the law’s open enrollment period has been slashed, and the administration has allowed states enormous amounts of flexibility to make it harder for people to obtain Medicaid coverage. 

Health care has consistently polled as one of the top issues among Americans leading up to the 2020 election, though the pandemic has also catapulted the economy to the forefront as well. 

The Census survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the findings show just how vulnerable millions of Americans were, and why many have been unable to afford treatment.

Notably, the survey showed Hispanics experienced the largest change in uninsured rates between 2018 and 2019,  increasing from 17.9 percent in 2018 to 18.7 percent in 2019.

Hispanic people are among the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The Census survey found the majority of people were covered by private insurance, and 56.4 percent were covered through their employer. 

Public coverage through Medicare and Medicaid was mixed. The percent of people insured through Medicaid fell slightly from 17.9 percent in 2018 to 17.2 percent last year. 

But the percentage of people covered by Medicare grew from 17.8 percent in 2018 to 18.1 percent in 2019, largely due to an aging population.



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