On the campaign trail, Trump promised to lower premiums. That isn’t happening. The number of Americans lacking healthcare is on the rise again. The U.S. uninsured rate inched up to 12.3% in the third quarter, the first rise in the uninsured rate since the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) took effect in 2014.
Rising premiums and political turmoil in Washington over Obamacare has whittled away coverage gains that sent the nation’s uninsured rate to once historic lows. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of American adults that do not have health insurance increased in the third quarter to 12.3%; that’s a 0.6% increase over the previous quarter and 1.4% since the start of 2017.
At 12.3%, the U.S. uninsured rate is now the highest since the last quarter of 2014, when it was 12.9%. The data is a little surprising because it comes at a time of low unemployment and solid economic growth.
In the third and fourth quarters of 2016, the last full year that President Obama was in the White House, the uninsured rate was at a record low 10.9%. The 1.4-point increase in uninsured adults since then represents nearly 1.5-million Americans.
The Republicans still have some breathing room. The current 12.3% uninsured rate is still well below the record 18% uninsured rate reached in the third quarter of 2013. The Affordable Care Act, which mandated that all American adults have health insurance, wasn’t implemented until 2014.
There are a number of reasons that could account for the rise in the U.S. uninsured rate since 2016. Rising insurance premiums could be scaring Americans away, in particular those who do not qualify for federal subsidies.
Turmoil in Washington could also be behind the numbers. While President Trump could not repeal Obamacare, a big part of his election campaign platform, he has been able to put a cancel cost-sharing payments which helped subsidize insurance plans for low and middle-income Americans.
Federal law puts a cap on the amount of money that low-and middle-income Americans have to pay for their premiums. And federal law stipulates that insurance companies cover more out-of-pocket expenses for low-income people.
Ending the payments means insurance companies, in an effort to recouple the lost money, will pass the burden on to those buying their own health insurance with higher premiums.
With the way things are heading, premium costs and the number of uninsured Americans is expected to rise even further.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, cancelling the cost sharing payments will result in 20% higher premiums in 2018 for the Affordable Care Act’s popular “silver plans”; by 2020, those premiums are expected to be 25% higher.
Those numbers are not far-fetched. Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner announced that rates there will increase by an average of 30.6% in 2018. Before Trump cancelled the cost-sharing payments, the increase was forecast at just eight percent.
“U.S. Uninsured Rate Rises to 12.3% in Third Quarter,” Gallup, October 20, 2017.
“Pa. approves steep 2018 ACA exchange percentage increases, hopes to minimize impact,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 16, 2017.