ARIZONA NEWS

Census: 55,000 Arizonans lost health insurance coverage last year

Sep 22, 2019, 4:35 AM
Despite a relatively strong economy, the number of people without health insurance rose between 201...
Despite a relatively strong economy, the number of people without health insurance rose between 2017 and 2018, the Census Bureau says. Nationally, 28.5 million people, or 8.9% of the population, were without coverage last year, while in Arizona it was 750,000 people, or 10.6% of the state. (Images Money/Creative Commons)
(Images Money/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – The number of Arizonans without health insurance rose by about 55,000 people last year, according to new data from the Census Bureau, as a relatively strong economy was offset by hefty cost increases for coverage.

The change from 2017 to 2018 raised the total number of uninsured in the state last year to about 750,000, or 10.6% of Arizona’s population.

Similar increases were seen nationally, where an estimated 500,000 lost insurance over the year, bringing the uninsured population to more than 28.5 million, or about 8.9% of the U.S. population, the Census said.

State health officials said they have not analyzed the cause of the “concerning” rise in uninsured people in Arizona, saying they have not noticed a decline in Medicaid enrollment from one year to the next.

But experts offered a number of possible reasons, from the state’s relatively high undocumented population to the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle Obamacare.

One possible reason is fear: An official at the nonprofit Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers said the Trump administration’s headline-grabbing actions against illegal immigrants have likely scared away undocumented people in need of health care.

That fear could extend to migrants who are here legally themselves, Allen Gjersvig, director of navigator and enrollment services at the alliance, said.

“People that have perhaps mixed family immigration status – somebody in the family is not fully documented, others are – they are afraid of being found out,” and subsequently dropping coverage, Gjersvig said.

David Hyman, a Georgetown University Law Center professor, agreed that this population can have an effect on a state’s number of uninsured.

“The states that adjoin our neighbor to the south have historically had much higher uninsurance rates than the northeast United States and the upper Midwest,” he said.

The Pew Research Center estimates about 275,000 people were undocumented in Arizona in 2016.

Some advocates found another reason to blame the Trump administration, pointing to steps it has taken to unravel the Affordable Care Act, one of the signature achievements of President Barack Obama’s administration.

“The Trump administration has done whatever they can to try to sabotage health care for Americans,” Morgan Tucker, Arizona director of Protect Our Care, said.

The percentage of Americans without insurance fell from 15% in 2012, the year Obamacare took effect, to 9% in 2017, the year Trump took office, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

ACA critics complained that costs for health insurance varied widely in the early years, and they challenged the constitutionality of the “individual mandate,” which required that people get coverage or pay a fine.

Jim Hammond, publisher of the Hertel Report, said that without penalties for passing on insurance, people are just less inclined to make an expensive purchase of a product he called a difficult sale under the best of circumstances.

“The return on your investment is oftentimes not felt,” Hammond said. “You don’t really get a good deal on your insurance unless you get sick.”

The disincentive to get a policy comes as Hyman says costs are increasing. Hammond said the people most affected earn between $65,000 and $70,000 annually, because they have to pay their insurance premiums without any financial help from the government.

“If you make that kind of money, most people think, ‘Oh, well, then you can afford health insurance,’” Hammond said. “But then, if you go out and try to buy it and it’s $800 a month, you might think it’s not worth it.”

Hyman said lower-income workers face the same struggle, as businesses in the agricultural and service sectors typically don’t offer health care coverage.

Tucker said other changes have not helped, such as shorter enrollment periods and diminished access to the healthcare marketplace. She said the advertising budget for the insurance marketplace has also been cut – and she’s not the only one to notice.

Gjersvig points to marketing cuts as the reason why more navigators, or health care guides, cannot be deployed. Navigators, who simplify the complex system for the community and pass along relevant information, are desperately needed, he said.

Hammond said the insurance industry needs to do a better job explaining to people why coverage is so crucial.

“Paying for an office visit or paying for an X-ray or lab work – people can find the money to do that,” he said. “But what if you got cancer? Or what if you were involved in a serious accident?”

“That’s what people are really protecting themselves from when they buy insurance and I don’t think that the insurance industry has really made that entirely clear,” he said.

But Hyman said increased coverage will only do so much if costs keep going up.

“We tend to focus on: Do people have insurance or not,” he said. “But if the cost of health care keeps rising, you’re sort of fighting a losing battle.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Scottsdazzle photo)...
KTAR.com

Lineup for Scottsdazzle holiday extravaganza released, set to kick off next month

Scottsdale has released the lineup for its monthlong celebration of the holiday season which is set to get underway in late November.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)...
Danny Shapiro

Services to be held Tuesday for MCSO deputy killed in line of duty

Memorial services will be held Tuesday for a Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty earlier this month.
1 day ago
Rockwell Commander 112, File Image (Wikimedia Commons Photo/FlugKerl2)...
Associated Press

Wreckage of small plane located in southern Arizona; no apparent survivors

The wreckage of a small plane has been located in Pima County and there appears to be no survivors, authorities said Monday.
1 day ago
Sarah Liguori was appointed to the vacant Arizona House seat for District 28 on Oct. 18, 2021. (sar...
Kevin Stone

Sarah Liguori appointed to fill Arizona House seat for District 28

Sarah Liguori was selected Monday to fill the Arizona House seat for District 28 vacated by Democrat Aaron Lieberman, who resigned last month to focus on his campaign for governor.
1 day ago
(Twitter Photo/@ArizonaDOT)...
KTAR.com

US 60 closed in West Valley because of cement truck fire

U.S. 60 in the West Valley was closed temporarily Monday during the noon hour because of a cement truck fire, authorities said.
1 day ago
Mary Ann Friesen (Photo via Arizona Department of Public Safety)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert canceled after missing Chandler woman found safe

Authorities canceled a Silver Alert on Monday after a missing Chandler woman was found safe.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
DISC DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
...
Albertsons

Grill like a pro this fall with tips from Albertsons

As the weather cools and football season kicks off, it’s a great time to fire up the grill and enjoy your favorite outdoor meals.
Census: 55,000 Arizonans lost health insurance coverage last year