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Oregon stalls, the nation falls. The latest on health insurance coverage.

Commentary
September 11, 2019By Janet Bauer

Progress has stalled. That’s the main takeaway from the latest data on health insurance coverage in Oregon, released yesterday by the U.S. Census.

In the years following enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the share of Oregonians with health insurance coverage began a steady climb. Coverage rose from 83 percent of Oregonians to 94 percent by 2016. This was largely the result of two key provisions of the Affordable Care Act: the expansion of Medicaid (the Oregon Health Plan), and the creation of a health insurance marketplace where people can buy individual insurance.

But 2016 was the last year that coverage increased in Oregon. It edged down in 2017, and stayed there in 2018, according to the latest Census data.

Looking at 2018, about 7 percent of Oregonians still lacked health insurance, an essential protection of personal health and family finances. In total numbers, some 293,000 Oregonians were uninsured — many more than the population of Eugene (170,000), Oregon’s second biggest city.

As concerning as the most recent Oregon data is, our state held up better than the nation as a whole. Nationally, health insurance coverage took a step backward in 2018, declining 0.6 percentage points, according to the Census’ Current Population Survey.

What explains the decline? Some of the blame rests at the doorstep of the White House. As Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains,

Administration efforts to weaken health coverage provided through the ACA began on President Trump’s first day in office, with an executive order calling on federal agencies to waive and delay ACA provisions “to the maximum extent permitted by law.” These efforts continued as the President and Congress repealed the ACA’s individual mandate (the requirement that most people have coverage or pay a penalty). While repeal did not take effect until 2019, the Congressional Budget Office and other experts concluded that it reduced coverage starting in 2018, by creating confusion among consumers.

Worse still, the Trump Administration continues to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Should the administration succeed, it would erase the progress of the past decade, leaving hardship and insecurity in its wake.