Providing some of the clearest evidence yet about President Donald Trump’s ability to undermine Obamacare even without the GOP votes in Congress required to officially repeal it, the national uninsurance rate is now on the rise.
According to Gallup, which has been tracking the uninsurance rate since 2008, the percentage of Americans without health care has been gradually ticking up since Trump was elected.
The uninsured rate had been on a steady downward trajectory since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, hitting historic lows over the past several years. But Gallup’s most recent report, released Friday, found the uninsured rate has risen 1.4 percentage points since the end of 2016. That works out to be almost 3.5 million more Americans going without insurance this year.
As the Associated Press reports, “the increase in the number of uninsured is more striking because it comes at a time of economic growth and low unemployment.”
Gallup points to several reasons for the rising uninsured rate.
For one, declining competition in Obamacare marketplaces has driven up premiums in some areas, making purchasing health care less attractive for Americans who worry they can’t afford the monthly rates.
But Gallup also cites increased uncertainty over the future of the health care law — which Trump has taken multiple executive actions to sabotage, and which Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal — that may have left American consumers confused about where Obamacare stands.
Open enrollment to purchase health insurance on Obamacare’s marketplaces begins in less than two weeks, for example, but most Americans aren’t aware of their options because the Trump administration hasn’t worked to advertise the upcoming enrollment period.
Maintaining competition and affordable premiums in the marketplaces is a challenge that predates the Trump administration. But there’s evidence that Trump’s actions are directly contributing to these issues, allowing Obamacare to become more unstable rather than taking any steps to improve it. After Trump announced the federal government will stop making payments to insurers that help offset the cost of subsidies, insurance regulators in several announced they will need to raise premiums as a result of the president’s decision.
“Without Congress and President Donald Trump taking steps to stabilize the insurance markets, the number of uninsured Americans likely will continue to rise,” Gallup researchers conclude.
It’s unclear whether that will happen anytime soon. This week, Trump repeatedly flip-flopped on his position about whether Congress should restore payments to insurers. And he continues to insist the Senate has the necessary votes to make yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.