County Uninsured Rates (%), 2018
Obamacare doesn’t get much love from Democratic presidential candidates other than Joe Biden, but new numbers from the Office of Financial Management highlight how much good it has done in Washington state—and how that progress is being eroded in the Trump era.
OFM reports that about 62,000 more Washington residents were without healthcare coverage in 2018 compared with the year before. The uninsured rate increased to 6.2 percent from 5.5 percent in 2017.
This upturn reversed a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured since the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion rolled out in 2014. In 2013, the statewide uninsured rate was 14.1 percent. The improvement since then and the partial relapse recently are in line with national trends.
OFM says more Washingtonians were uninsured in 2018 despite an increase in the number enrolled in employer plans, which cover nearly half of all state residents. Gains in employer-based coverage, fueled by a strong economy, were more than offset by a 55,000 drop in Medicaid enrollment.
The Medicaid downturn coincided with news of the Trump administration’s plans to deny admission, visas, and Green Cards to immigrants who access such public benefits. The new “public charge” rules were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in January and put into effect on February 24 this year.
Which may partially explain a big jump in the 2018 uninsured rate in Yakima County, to 15.1 percent—the highest of any Washington county—from 9.1 percent a year earlier. Double-digit uninsured rates for 2018 were recorded in central Washington counties from Okanogan to Walla Walla, but nowhere in western Washington. The King County rate of 5.1 percent was down from 5.3 percent in 2017.
Statewide, Medicaid enrollment continued to fall in 2019, and coverage via individual plans also fell, OFM says, which signals that the uninsured rate probably continued to rise last year.
More evidence that the Democratic presidential candidate should prioritize health-care issues and how Trump wants to keep attacking Obamacare. The other two issues I suggest to emphasize are: restoring the rule of law, and attention to a good economy (and one that works for more classes).
Well, they are highlighting health care issues, just the wrong ones. The debate has been all about Medicare for All, because Sanders and Warren have pushed it forward as the cure all for all the country’s health care ills, and have belittled any candidate who advocates for reforms short of full scale single payer. While it polls well on the surface, it’s going to be a huge problem in the general election if Sanders is the nominee. All for something that is (a) politically unattainable and (b) unrealistic at the policy level because transitioning our massive and complex health care system to single payer is not something that can happen overnight — it would need to happen gradually and incrementally anyway, or the disruption would collapse the entire system.