Number of Uninsured People in US Grew in COVID-19 Pandemic Following Enforcement of Medicaid and Obamacare

The uninsured rate in the United States saw a decline during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite millions losing employer-sponsored coverage due to layoffs, according to a report released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department.

For individuals under age 65, the uninsured rate decreased from 11% in 2019 to 10.5% in 2021. By the first quarter of 2022, it reached an all-time low of 8%, before rising slightly to 8.6% in the second quarter of that year, as reported by HHS.

Despite a significant rise in unemployment in early 2020 leading to an estimated 1.6 million to 3.3 million people losing employer-based coverage, pandemic-related health policies provided a safety net.

These policies facilitated easier access to insurance for those who lost private coverage.

During the public health emergency, Congress prevented states from removing individuals from Medicaid, coupled with increased funding to states.

Consequently, Medicaid enrollment surged by over 20 million from February 2020 through September 2022.

Call for Health Coverage (Photo: Getty Images)

However, these Medicaid protections are slated to end soon. Federal legislation passed in December permits states to begin disenrolling Medicaid recipients in April if they no longer meet eligibility criteria.

HHS projects that up to 15 million people could lose Medicaid coverage as these pandemic-era protections wind down.

Many of these individuals are expected to transition to coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces.

Enrollment in Obamacare increased during the pandemic due to a special enrollment period in 2021, expanded tax credits, and enhanced outreach efforts funded by HHS.

Current enrollment statistics indicate nearly 16 million people have signed up during the ongoing enrollment period, marking a 13% increase from the previous year.

Three million of these enrollees are obtaining coverage through the marketplace for the first time. The current open enrollment period concludes Sunday.

HHS based its uninsured estimates from 2019 to 2021 on data from the American Community Survey, which surveys 3.5 million U.S. households.

Data for 2022 estimates were derived from the National Health Interview Survey, which involves a smaller sample of over 17,000 individuals.

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