America’s Uninsured Rate Hits Historic Low

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Thanks, me.Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act has had a rough year, what with its unprofitable marketplaces, rising deductibles, fleeing insurers, and persistent lack of functioning death panels.

But for all of the ACA’s troubles, the law has still drastically reduced the number of Americans who are too poor, sick, or unemployed to access health insurance. Which is to say, there are now far fewer people in this country who have to worry about financial ruin every time they cough.

According to new data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, America’s uninsured rate fell to 8.6 percent in the first three months of this year, the lowest such figure ever recorded. At the time “Obamacare” went into law, that rate stood at 16 percent.

That decline would have been even sharper if fewer GOP governors believed that providing poor people with federally subsidized health care is a violation of liberty: States that participated in the Medicaid expansion saw their collective uninsured rate fall from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 9.2 percent just three years later. The 19 states that opted out of Medicaid expansion saw a more modest (though substantial) decline from 22.7 percent in 2013 to 16.7 percent in 2016.

The data also reveals that when millennials aren’t killing car culture, entrepreneurship, and the bar of soap, they do their best to kill Obamacare. Americans 18 to 24 have an uninsured rate of 14.3 percent, while those 25 to 34 have one of 15.9 — nearly double the rate of those 45 to 64.

Insurers were counting on the individual mandate to cow the “young immortals” into buying health-care coverage. The deal was supposed to be: If you stop turning away people with preexisting conditions, the government will make up for the cost of covering them by forcing a bunch of young people who never go to the doctor to become your clients.

But, for now, a lot of millennials are opting for the tax penalty over monthly premiums. And that poses long-term peril for the ACA, even as it continues to thin the ranks of the uninsured.