Sep 15, 2021 - Health

Pandemic didn't lead to spike in uninsured

What type of health insurance do Americans have?
Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Roughly 8.6% of Americans didn't have health insurance in 2020, a figure that has stayed consistent since 2018, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

Why it matters: Government assistance, in the form of beefed-up Medicaid eligibility and heavily subsidized plans in the Affordable Care Act markets, kept people insured despite the pandemic-fueled recession.

Between the lines: The Census Bureau said there was no statistically significant increase in Medicaid enrollment, but that's not quite right.

  • Other federal data show enrollment in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program soared by 14% from February 2020 to February 2021, totaling more than 81 million people.
  • Congress increased funds for Medicaid programs and said states could not kick people off Medicaid during the pandemic.
  • The Census Bureau's numbers are off from other federal data because the agency had trouble receiving responses for its survey due to the pandemic, especially from people with lower incomes who likely would be on Medicaid.

Reality check: While the uninsured rate didn't increase, 28 million people still didn't have any health insurance.

  • And uninsured rates did increase for certain subgroups, including Black children (4.6% in 2018 to 6% in 2020) and adults who live in states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA (35.6% in 2018 to 38.1% in 2020).

Go deeper: Health insurers soak in pandemic-fueled Medicaid growth

Go deeper