The percentage of Americans without health insurance fell, according to a government study released early Thursday.
But whether that progress continues will depend greatly on what happens in Congress in the coming weeks.
The study was a regular and long-planned update to the National Health Insurance Survey, one of many tools government and independent researchers use to assess health coverage in America. The study found that the percentage of Americans without health insurance decreased by 1.5 percentage points over the past year, from 9.5% in the first quarter of 2021 to 8% in the first quarter of 2022.
That’s a pretty big drop, and it may have taken the level of “uninsured” in the United States to a new all-time low. Hard to be sure, because the NHIS is not that accurate and because the government changed the questionnaire in 2019, making direct comparisons with previous years difficult.
But there’s little dispute among experts that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has dropped significantly ― first with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 and, more recently, with the enactment of certain temporary pandemic-related measures to expand the reach of the law while strengthening other federal health programs.
The most well-known of these recent measures has been an increase in financial assistance available to people purchasing insurance on their own, through HealthCare.gov or state-run online marketplaces like “Your Idaho Health” and “New York State of Health.”
The new aid has made it cheaper to buy coverage through these official government-run markets ― reducing costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. But the funding was part of the COVID-19 relief bill that Democrats passed and the President Joe Biden signed in early 2021. This is ready to run out at the end of that calendar year.
Another recent measure, less publicized, was a rule prohibiting states to require people Medical help to restore their eligibility for the duration of the pandemic, on the theory that those who qualify for the program frequently lose coverage anyway because they can’t handle the notoriously cumbersome verification process.
This ban will end whenever the Biden administration declares the official end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
If the two temporary measures end, the number of people without health insurance is likely to go back up, while many others would remain insured but face higher prices.
“Progress in health insurance coverage could all collapse,” larry levittexecutive vice president for health policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, told HuffPost.
“These two pandemic-era provisions have significantly reduced the number of uninsured people since their enactment, and will again send the number higher if and when they expire,” said Sara Collinsprincipal researcher and vice-president of the Commonwealth Funda New York-based foundation that focuses on health care.
Biden and Democratic leaders have worked feverishly to prevent that from happening. And their best hope right now is what’s left of the law which started as their Build Back Better plan.
Biden and Democratic leaders had to drop many key elements of the bill, including his babysitting provisions, because their legislative majorities are very slim. Republicans want nothing to do with the agenda, and a small number of Democrats had objections― leader of them Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
“Progress in health insurance coverage could all collapse.”
– Larry Levitt, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
But Manchin announced on Wednesday that he had reached an agreement with Democratic leaders on a narrower bill with policies on climate and health care, including a three-year extension of those Act subsidies. affordable care.
This same bill could also include provisions to ensure that states do not eliminate their Medicaid lists too hastily or clumsily after the public health emergency. Several Democrats have called for such measures, though it’s unclear if that aspect has the support it needs to pass.
“During the pandemic, we know that many people have moved due to financial or other circumstances, so it will be difficult to reach many people once they need to have their eligibility reassessed,” Linda Blumbergan institute member at the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, told HuffPost.
“A big fear is that people who remain eligible for Medicaid won’t know, once [public health emergency] ends, that they need to double-check their eligibility and they will lose coverage for administrative (data) reasons, not because they are no longer eligible,” Blumberg added.
It remains to be seen whether the legislation will meet and pass.
The proposal has already met with opposition from conservatives and Republicans, who oppose the substantial new spending this would require and, more generally, support for a greater federal role in health care. They may have stopped cruising to repeal “Obamacare,” but they’re not about to take action that would back it up.
That means, as usual, Democrats have only a handful of votes to spare in the House and zero in the upper house, creating huge challenges for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN. Y.) and his team. But if Democrats needed any extra incentive to pass this bill, the new study should provide it — by showing how many people benefited from their temporary programs and how many will lose out if those programs don’t continue.
The Huffington Gt