Consumer / Employer

National uninsured rate reaches record low at 8%, HHS report shows

About 5.2 million people have gained healthcare coverage since 2020. The previous record for the lowest national uninsured rate was 9% in 2016. 

The national uninsured rate reached 8% in early 2022, a record low with 5.2 million people gaining coverage since 2020, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report released Tuesday.

The report analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey and the American Community Survey.

“Our new report shows that the uninsured rate in the country reached an all-time low this year – welcome news and proof that our efforts to protect and expand on the Affordable Care Act are paying off,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release. “As we move forward, the Department of Health and Human Services will continue to do everything we can to protect, expand, and strengthen the programs that provide the quality, affordable health care Americans rely on and deserve.”

The uninsured rate significantly declined in 2021 and early 2022, reaching 8% in the first quarter from January to March. The previous record was 9% in 2016, according to the report. 

Of the 5.2 million people gaining coverage since 2020, 4.1 million adults ages 18 to 63 became insured and 1 million children ages 0 to 17 became insured. This increase is largely because of the enhanced marketplace subsidies and an extended 2021 enrollment period under the American Rescue Plan, according to the report. 

Additionally, there were several state Medicaid expansions. When looking at state-specific analyses for low-income adults from 2018 to 2020, 18 states saw a decline in uninsured rates, 15 of which expanded Medicaid. Of the five states that expanded Medicaid from 2019 to 2020, all of them saw a decline in uninsured rates. Idaho saw the biggest decline of 8.4% from 2018 to 2020. Data after 2020 aren’t available yet.

Uninsured rates of those ages 18 to 64 fell from 14.5% in late 2020 to 11.8% in early 2022. For those ages 0 to 17, uninsured rates fell from 6.4% in late 2020 to 3.7% in early 2022.

Adults covered by marketplace rose from 4.4% in 2020 to 5.4% in early 2022, representing about 2 million adults.

The largest changes in uninsured rates were in the poorest demographic groups. Among individuals with incomes 100% below the federal poverty level, the uninsured rate went from 20% in the first quarter of 2021 to 15.5% in the first quarter of 2022. For those with incomes between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level, the rate went from 16.6% to 16%. In those with incomes between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty level, the rate went from 11.7% to 9.7%. The smallest decrease was among those earning above 400% of the federal poverty level, with uninsured rates dropping from 4.2% to 3.7%.

“I’m hopeful that with Congressional action we can continue the work to lower costs for more Americans by both extending the enhanced Affordable Care Act tax credits that have helped drive the uninsured rate to an all-time low and increasing the affordability of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries — reducing their cost sharing and allowing Medicare to negotiate a better deal on prescription drug prices,” Becerra said.

Photo: YinYang, Getty Images