The number of people without health insurance has increased for the first time since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010. New data released by the United States Census Bureau last week show the number of people without health insurance increased in 2018 by approximately 1.9 million people nationwide, standing at 25.7 million adults and children.
The new report shows the number of uninsured New Mexicans went up by about 9,000 in 2018 from 2017, with the number of uninsured at nearly 200,000 adults and children. The state is tied with Texas and Arkansas for the fifth-highest increase rate in the nation with a change from 9.1% to 9.5%, while the national average rose half a percentage point to 8.5%.
Early 2019 numbers have the national uninsured rate up at 9.1% as of April of this year, according to the same report. The Bureau attributes the change primarily to a decrease in public insurance for the poor with national enrollment in Medicaid dropping by 0.7% or 1.6 million people.
The rate of those with private health insurance also decreased between 2017 and 2018, although minimally, and the percentage of uninsured children under the age of 19 increased by 0.6%.
Smaller surveys have previously documented a rise in the uninsured rate. Analyses from Gallup, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center for Children and Families documented increases in the number of uninsured adults and children since 2016. The Congressional Budget Office also announced this spring that it expects the number of uninsured people will rise over the next decade.
This is while the economy is doing well. The same Census report showed that the share of Americans living in poverty fell to 11.8%, the lowest level since 2001.
Although the uninsured rate decreased dramatically after the ACA was enacted, these trends are now being reversed. The uninsured rate reached its lowest point in 2016, increased slightly in 2017, and has now officially increased in 2018 with another projected increase in 2019. Even as the poverty rate falls, more Americans are uninsured, including more children, workers and higher-income people.
A 2017 report by the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance projected “a major potential impact” on the state’s uninsured rate as Congress prepared for a vote on the proposed overhaul of the ACA. That overhaul would have ended the state’s Medicaid expansion.
That measure did not pass, but some administrative changes to the Medicaid program have since occurred. Policy changes call for more stringent federal eligibility requirements, such as the public charge rule, while a few states have contemplated adding or have enacted work requirements in their programs.
Critics say the extra qualifications discourage people from enrolling, while proponents for the changes say it encourages families to pull themselves out of poverty.
States with the largest increase of uninsured people from 2017 to 2018 were South Dakota, Alabama, Tennesse and Ohio. Texas had the highest uninsured rate overall at nearly 18%, and Wyoming saw the biggest increase of medically insured people between 2017 and 2018 with a 1.8% change.