US Census shows rising enrollment in public health insurance
The latest figures on health insurance enrollment in the US, released today by the Census Bureau, show that the percentage of people without coverage declined last year, from 15.8% of the population to 15.3%. The reason: more people last year enrolled in public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Washington types are furiously debating whether the U.S. should allow more people to buy government-backed insurance. But census data out today suggest the nation may already be moving in that direction.
The percentage of people who got health insurance through work or bought it on the private market declined last year, according to the census report (online here). But the share of Americans insured through Medicaid and Medicare (government-backed insurance programs for the poor, elderly and disabled) increased.
Overall, the percentage of people covered by government-backed insurance rose to 27.8% from 27%, while the percentage covered by private insurance fell to 67.5% from 67.9%. The portion of those who are uninsured fell to 15.3% from 15.8%.
Although the percentages may be small, the shift represents millions of people — and an overall decline in the portion of Americans who are uninsured, which goes against a trend in recent years of rising uninsurance rates.
In other words, if not for more robust public insurance, it's likely far more people would be without medical coverage. And that's true of the long-term, as well. Employer-sponsored insurance has declined over the last 30 years or so, as rising costs have made it harder for employers and employees to pay for it. If not for the expansions of eligibility for Medicaid and establishment of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, many more people would be without insurance and, as a result, struggling to pay their medical bills.