CHN: New Census Bureau Data Show Fewer Americans with Health Care Coverage, Tremendous Disparities in Poverty Rates Based on Race and Age

For the first time since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of uninsured Americans is on the rise. That’s the headline that emerged earlier this month when annual U.S. Census Bureau statistics were released. The statistics showed that 27.5 million Americans, or 8.5 percent of the population, did not have health insurance in 2018, an increase of 1.9 million people over 2017.

Experts attributed the decline to the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on the ACA, which range from cutting the budgets for promoting the ACA and helping people enroll in marketplaces, to attempts to scale back Medicaid coverage.

Medicaid coverage dropped by nearly 2 million people from 2017 to 2018.  Those losing Medicaid did not shift to private insurance; there were 429,000 fewer private insurance enrollees in 2018 than in 2017.

The Census Bureau actually released two broad sets of numbers in September. National statistics released in early September reported on poverty and income levels, as well as the number of people with health care coverage. On Thursday, Sept. 26, the Census Bureau released state and local data derived from the American Community Survey (ACS).

The newest data released last week show a poverty rate of 13.1 percent in 2018, down from 13.4 percent over the previous year. While the downward trend is good news, the data continue to show troubling disparities. Income inequality rose nationwide. More than 30 percent of all people in the U.S. have incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (just under $40,000 a year for a family of 3). In 24 states and Puerto Rico, at least 30 percent of people had incomes this modest – above poverty, but on the edge.

Poverty is declining for communities of color as well, but African Americans, Latinx, and American Indians and Alaska Natives remain disproportionately poor. “The racial poverty gap is an old story in our nation,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a national advocacy group focused on reducing poverty. “The new data continue to show stubbornly high poverty rates for all African Americans, Latinx, and American Indians. But poverty is far worse for our youngest children, during their crucial developmental years. Failing to help families with young children to raise their children out of poverty threatens our future.”

You can read CHN’s statement in response to the newest numbers here, and see CHN’s table showing total poverty, under 200 percent of poverty, and child poverty with certain race/ethnicity details, for 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico here. CHN also summarized a number of CHN members’ responses to the national data here. And CHN’s poverty resource page is here. Finally, click here to view CHN’s “First Look at Poverty and Health Insurance: Fewer Americans Have Health Insurance – And Millions Are Not Sharing in Economic Growth.”

As always, the national Census Bureau data showed that race plays a disproportionate impact on who is poor and who is not. Among non-Hispanic Whites, the national poverty rate in 2018 was 8.1 percent; among Blacks, it was 20.8 percent; and among Hispanics (any race) it was 17.6 percent. The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites declined from 8.5 percent in 2017 to 8.1 percent in 2018 while the poverty rate for Blacks, Asians and Hispanics did not change significantly from the previous year. And children remain disproportionately poor: 16.2 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty in 2018, down 1.2 percentage points from 2017. 8.9 percent of non-Hispanic White children live in poverty, compared with 29.5 percent of Black and 23.7 percent of Hispanic (any race) children.

The good news, however, is that programs such as Social Security, low-income tax credits, SNAP/food stamps and housing assistance helped lift millions out of poverty. The Supplemental Poverty Measure data show that Social Security continues to be the most important anti-poverty program, moving 27.3 million Americans out of poverty. SNAP/food stamps moved 3.1 million out of poverty, housing assistance, 3 million people, and SSI, 2.9 million people.

The bad news, however, is that the Trump Administration is trying to cut SNAP, housing aid, and other programs that help move people out of poverty.

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Census Bureau poverty data
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