WASHINGTON – Today, new detailed data from the 2017 American Community Survey, analyzed by the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), shows that the historic progress in reducing uninsured rates for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) have stopped or reversed. This reversal is likely due in part to actions by the Trump Administration and certain state governments that have undermined and opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the APIAHF, released the following statement:
“APIAHF is dedicated to reducing disparities in health insurance with the goal of health equity. The new Census Bureau data is concerning for AA and NHPI communities. Thanks to the ACA, AAs and NHPIs saw some of the largest decreases in uninsured of any group. But efforts to undermine the ACA threaten that.”
For the first time since passage of the ACA, the AA uninsured rate remained virtually flat at 6.4%, while the NHPI uninsured rate increased from 7.7% to 8.3%. The AA uninsured rate increased in a number of states, such as Georgia (10.5% to 13.5%), Iowa (5.1% to 8.1%) and Kentucky (7% to 10%). In contrast, the AA uninsured rate dropped in New Jersey (7.4% to 6.3%) and Connecticut (6.4% to 4.7%). Data for NHPI uninsured is not available in most states.
APIAHF has long prioritized the need for detailed data for AA and NHPI populations, and the new data demonstrates that importance for subgroups that saw their uninsured rates grow. For example, the uninsured rate for Native Hawaiians rose from 4.7% to 5.5%, Micronesians from 11.5% to 13.1%, Burmese from 12% to 13.2% and Cambodians from 7.4% to 8.2%. Considering the recent large cut in Navigator grants, these trends are concerning, as fewer dollars will be available to help communities through culturally and linguistically tailored resources.
The Trump Administration’s policies and governors opposed to the ACA likely contributed to these reductions, such as sowing confusion with multiple attempts to repeal the ACA, and lowering standards for health insurance. Importantly, this 2017 data does not reflect some of the more severe actions that policymakers have taken that could cause health insurance rates to fall in 2018 and 2019, such as zeroing out the individual mandate, granting Medicaid waivers that are intended to remove people from the program and proposing to tie immigration to the use of any public health benefit by refusing entry or permanent residency to families that use ACA tax credits, CHIP or Medicaid.
These actions have already created confusion and fear amongst AAs and NHPIs that may be exacerbated by the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census. If communities of color, including AAs and NHPIs, are not adequately counted, it could throw future data into doubt.
As the nation’s oldest and largest health justice organization working to improve the health and well-being of AAs and NHPIs, APIAHF is committed to fighting for coverage for all and supporting our community health partners.