Spike in Uninsured May be Linked to Trump Immigration Policies

By Shani Saxon Sep 16, 2019

The Census Bureau issued a report earlier this month that indicates a significant increase in the number of uninsured people in America. A September 15 report from Time found that “fears of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown” may be the dominant factor in this shift.

The Census Bureau reports that the number of uninsured people in the United States “rose by 1.9 million people in 2018.” It’s the first increase in nearly a decade, Time reports, and it's driven by a drop in insurance for Latinx people. According to Time, “Hispanics were the only major racial and ethnic category with a significant increase in their uninsured rate. It rose by 1.6 percentage points in 2018, with nearly 18 percent lacking coverage. There was no significant change in health insurance for non-Hispanic Whites, Blacks and Asians.”

It’s likely that Latinx immigrants, driven by a fear of the Trump administration’s harsh immigration laws, are too afraid to apply for federal programs like Medicaid. Time reports:


Immigrants’ fears may also be part of the reason for a significant increase in the number of uninsured children in 2018, said Katherine Hempstead, a senior health policy expert with the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which works to expand coverage. Among immigrant children who have become citizens, the uninsured rate rose by 2.2 percentage points in 2018, to 8.6 percent. The increase was greater among kids who are not citizens.


“There are a lot of kids eligible for public coverage but not enrolled because of various things that make it less comfortable for people to enroll in public coverage,” said Hempstead.

Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt told Time, “Some of the biggest declines in coverage are coming among Latinos and noncitizens.” He believes policy changes like the updated Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, which penalizes green card applicants who make use of federal benefits like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and housing help. “These declines in coverage are coming at a time when the Trump administration has tried to curb immigration and discourage immigrants from using public benefits like Medicaid,” Levitt said.

The Trump administration, however, blamed the Affordable Care Act for the increase in uninsured people in America. In a statement to Time about the Census Bureau data, the administration said, “The reality is we will continue to see the number of uninsured increase until we address the underlying issues in Obamacare that have failed the American people.”

Harvard Medical School’s Richard Frank, a health economist and former health policy adviser in the Obama administration, told Time that the report suggests “that we are dealing with immigration … potentially in some unexpected ways.” He continued, “You can imagine the new approach to immigration inhibiting these people from doing things that would make them more visible to public authorities.”