A census bureau report released on Tuesday shows that 1.9 million more Americans were uninsured in 2018 than in 2017, with the rate of those uninsured rising from 7.9% to 8.5%. However, in Pennsylvania the rate is unchanged at 5.5%, and the best estimate we have is that only 7,000 fewer people have health insurance in the state (and even that difference might just be a result of sampling error).
We have better results in Pennsylvania than nationwide as a result of the aggressive steps taken by the Wolf administration to expand access to health insurance in the state.
Health insurance rates are dropping nationwide because of a relentless attack by the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans on the Affordable Care Act. At the outset of his administration, Trump issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to waive and delay ACA provisions ‘to the maximum extent permitted by law.’ Among other things, the administration cut funding for outreach and enrollment assistance. It tried to eliminate the ‘cost saving reductions’ that held out-of-pocket expenses down for those with incomes at 250% of the federal poverty line or below. And, with the Republican Congress, it repealed the tax that enforced the health care mandate.
Pennsylvania was subject to these changes in federal policy. But the Wolf administration’s decision to expand Medicaid and support outreach efforts helped Pennsylvanians discover how the ACA could benefit them. It also worked with health insurance companies to preserve the cost sharing reductions and to encourage more companies to offer plans in the health insurance marketplaces.
And we can expect better results next year as this year the Wolf administration worked with the General Assembly to create a state-based exchange and a reinsurance program that should help keep insurance costs down.
The threats to the ACA are not over, especially with the Trump administration supporting a federal court case that would repeal it. Work has to be done in Pennsylvania to protect the ACA by preventing junk insurance plans that don’t provide all essential benefits to be sold in our state. And we need to do more at the state and federal levels to make health insurance more affordable by allowing public plans to compete with private insurance.
But thanks to the Wolf Administration, we are protecting most of those who secured health insurance through the ACA and, thus, have a better foundation on which to build in the future.