The number of Arizona residents without health insurance increased by 55,000 between 2017 and 2018, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Last year, roughly 750,000 Arizonans, or approximately 10.6% of the state’s total population, didn’t have health insurance.
Last year also marked the first time since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 that the number of uninsured Arizonans increased. Before the law took effect, 18% of the population was uninsured, but by 2017, the number was down to 10.1% according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Arizona wasn’t the only state to experience a drop in enrollment last year; Alabama, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington all saw a statistically significant increase in the number of uninsured people.
Nationwide, a total of 1.9 million more people were uninsured in 2018 than in 2017.
Many experts and health care advocates are blaming President Trump’s attacks on the ACA for the increase in the uninsured rate.
After unsuccessfully trying to repeal Obamacare in 2017, the Trump administration has stripped away many of its key provisions, including repealing the law’s individual mandate. The administration also reduced the advertising budget for the ACA’s open enrollment period by 90%.
Many prominent Democrats have also laid the blame squarely at Trump’s feet.
Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) tweeted that Trump “has done everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.”
Fellow Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden also blamed the increase on Trump’s “countless attacks on the law.”
Trump’s policies towards immigrants have exacerbated the problem, especially in Arizona, where immigrants make up 12% of the population.
Starting October 15, the Trump administration will have the ability to deny immigrants green cards if they’ve received government benefits such as housing assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid.
Even though the rules aren’t in effect yet, their announcement has created anxiety throughout low-income, immigrant communities. Even those immigrants who won’t be affected by the law have started steering clear of insurance and other government benefits, according to the Arizona Republic.
Hispanics already have the lowest rates of health insurance coverage in the country; nearly 18% of the Latinx community didn’t have insurance in 2018.
Arizona can expect to see the ramifications of decreased coverage in years to come, according to Swapna Reddy, a clinical assistant professor at the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University.
“We know what happens to a population when it’s uninsured or underinsured. There’s the human cost at the individual level, but there’s also the larger, societal cost,” she told The Arizona Republic.