The number of people in the US without health insurance fell during the Covid-19 pandemic, even as millions lost insurance coverage from their employers due to layoffs.
The US uninsurance rate for people under 65 has fallen from 11% in 2019 to 10.5% in 2021, according to a report released Friday by the Department of Health.
By the first quarter of 2022, the uninsured rate had fallen to an all-time low of 8%, according to the report. It then rose slightly to 8.6% in the second quarter of 2022, HHS said.
The uninsured rate declined despite a huge spike in unemployment in early 2020, leading to an estimated 1.6 million to 3.3 million people losing insurance coverage from their employers, according to HHS.
But pandemic health policies have created a safety net for people who have lost their private coverage and made it easier for them to find insurance.
Congress essentially banned states from throwing people off Medicaid during public health emergencies in exchange for more funding for the states. As a result, Medicaid enrollments increased by more than 20 million from February 2020 to September 2022.
But that Medicaid protection is about to end. It is expected that millions of people will lose the insurance coverage they have acquired through the program. Federal spending laws passed by Congress in December allow states to begin throwing people out of Medicaid in April if they no longer meet eligibility requirements.
HHS has estimated as many as 15 million people could lose Medicaid if pandemic-era protections are shut down and the program returns to normal operations. Many of these individuals are expected to move to cover the Obamacare marketplace.
Enrollment in Obamacare through the marketplaces has also increased during the pandemic, according to HHS, due to a special enrollment window in 2021, expanded tax credits, and more means to reach out to beneficiaries.
Nearly 16 million people signed up during the current signup period, a 13% increase from last year. Three million of them will be covered via the marketplace for the first time. The current open registration period ends on Sunday.
HHS estimates for the 2019-2021 uninsured are based on data from the American Community Survey, which collects information from 3.5 million US households. The 2022 estimates come from the National Health Interview Survey, which uses a much smaller sample of more than 17,000 people.