Sep 14, 2022 - Health

The uninsured rate of Americans remains relatively steady

Share of Americans without health insurance
Data: U.S. Census; Chart: Axios Visuals. Footnote: An updated data processing system was implemented beginning with data year 2018 estimates. This system introduced demographic edit changes, revised procedures for editing and added new income and health insurance variables.

The number of Americans without health insurance fell by a million people in 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau data published yesterday.

Why it matters: Despite COVID-19 and the economic uncertainty it spawned, the uninsured rate remained stable due to enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies and the Medicaid continuous coverage provisions Congress enacted in response to the pandemic.

By the numbers: 8.3% or 27.2 million Americans lacked health insurance at some point in 2021. That compared to an uninsured rate of 8.6% or 28.3 million in 2020.

  • It's also a drop from the 8.5% rate in 2018, before the COVID pandemic.
  • Medicaid coverage increased in 2021 by almost a percentage point, to include about 19% of Americans, or 61.9 million people.
  • The number of uninsured children also decreased from 2020 to 2021 due to an rise in public coverage. Before COVID, the number of uninsured children was rising.

"It's certainly among the lowest" uninsured rates the U.S. has seen, said Sharon Stern, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau, told reporters during a Sept. 13 press call.

But, but, but: The gains could be erased at the end of the public health emergency, when states will have to redetermine the eligibility of their Medicaid populations, said Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation executive vice president for health policy.

What we're watching: How many people affected by Medicaid redeterminations move to ACA markets next year.

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