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Millions of Americans added to the ranks of the uninsured

The nation's uninsured rate was steadily improving. Then Donald Trump and congressional Republicans got to work.
Image: U.S. President Trump celebrates with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) celebrates with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved...

One of the core goals of the Affordable Care Act was to bring health care coverage to uninsured Americans, and on this metric, "Obamacare" has been successful: according to Gallup data, the uninsured rate went from 18% before the ACA was fully implemented to below 11%.

That progress has now stopped and the trend is starting to move in the opposite direction. Axios reported this morning on the newest data from Gallup and Sharecare.

The percentage of Americans without health insurance ticked up 1.3 percentage points in 2017, ending the year at 12.2%, according to the latest data from Gallup. That's still a lot lower than it was before the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion took effect, but this is the biggest single-year increase since 2008, well before the ACA.

To be sure, that probably seems like a minor increase. That said, as Gallup's report made clear, "That 1.3 point increase represents an estimated 3.2 million Americans who entered the ranks of the uninsured in 2017."

If you or people close to you are part of that 3.2 million, the uptick in the uninsured rate probably doesn't look that small.

What's more, the concern throughout the health care sector is that the rate will continue to move in the wrong direction over the next several years, largely as a direct result of actions from Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Indeed, it was just last month that GOP policymakers, as part of their regressive tax plan, repealed the ACA's individual mandate -- a move that the Congressional Budget Office said will push millions more into the ranks of the uninsured.

Yes, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) negotiated a deal in support of some health care measures intended to mitigate the damage, but (a) the impact of those policies would be modest; and (b) the measures Collins fought for are still not close to actually passing.

If recent history is any guide, Trump World will respond to the discouraging health care news by pointing the finger elsewhere. These efforts should fail. Ezra Klein had a good piece on this recently:

The problem with this theory is that Democrats no longer hold the White House, or anything else. Republicans, led by Trump, hold total power. They are the governing party, and they stand to absorb the blame for the state of the country. According to an August poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, by a margin of 60 to 28 percent, Americans now say Republicans are now responsible for the Affordable Care Act. […]Trump’s view, as I understand it, has been that Obamacare is so thoroughly associated with Democrats that any problems it faces will be blamed on them. Ten months ago, he might have been right. But he is president now, and his compulsive monologuing of his own master plan has ensured that the country knows he is actively undermining the law, and is prepared to blame him for the results.

A Washington Post  report added, “The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.”

Even some in the president’s party are acknowledging what is plainly true. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) added, “We, the Republican Party, will own this.”