New Numbers: Obamacare Expanded Coverage By Upping Medicaid Rolls

New Numbers: Obamacare Expanded Coverage By Upping Medicaid Rolls

The Left and the media are constantly telling us that the percentage of uninsured Americans is the lowest it has ever been, thanks to Obamacare. But Obamacare’s “success” may be almost entirely due to the expansion of government-run insurance.

The federal government’s National Center for Health Statistics has just released its annual survey of health insurance coverage, which includes findings from past years. It certainly shows that the percentage of uninsured has declined over the past several years, although that decline began before Obamacare’s health insurance provisions kicked in at the beginning of 2014.

But the interesting part is comparing the percentage of Americans with public and private health insurance both before and after Obamacare. According to the survey, in 2005—i.e., before Obamacare and the recession:

  • 70.9 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 65 had private health insurance;
  • Only 11.5 percent had public health insurance (those age ranges exclude seniors on Medicare and low-income children on the Children’s Health Insurance Plan) and
  • 9 percent were uninsured.

While the percentage with private coverage understandably dropped in the years following the recession—to the 64 percent range—by 2014 private coverage was back up to 67.3 percent, a 3 percentage-point increase over the 2013 level. In 2015 it jumped to 69.7 percent, but dropped a little in 2016, to 69.2 percent.

Since the private insurance number jumped 3 percentage points in 2014, when Obamacare kicked in, then it was responsible for the expansion, right? Maybe. But notice that the percentage with private coverage is still nearly two percentage points lower than the 2005 level. It’s also even lower than the 1997 private coverage level, 72.8 percent.

In other words, the percentage of working-age Americans with private health insurance is actually lower post-Obamacare than it was a decade ago.

By contrast, the percentage of working-age Americans with public health insurance—in this age range we’re primarily talking Medicaid—has increased steadily from 11.5 percent in 2005. You would expect that percentage to grow during the recession, but it would typically decline during the economic recovery (if we’d had one worth mentioning).

According to the survey, 20 percent of the working-age public is now on government health insurance, the highest percentage for that age group since Medicaid began. Thus, Obamacare has been one big expansion of government-run health insurance. President Obama and the Left consider that a huge success, and if your goal is to make more Americans dependent on government handouts, mission accomplished!

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article clipped off the “70.” from the “70.9 percent” who had private insurance in 2005.

Dr. Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.
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