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AP FACT CHECK: Harris cherry-picks health insurance stats

July 29, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a candidates forum at the 110th NAACP National Convention, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks during a candidates forum at the 110th NAACP National Convention, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris is cherry-picking statistics in declaring that millions have lost health insurance under President Donald Trump. Progress has stalled under Trump, but other data suggest there’s been no dramatic slippage.

HARRIS: “Even though we spend more, we have failed to insure nearly 30 million Americans, and the problem has gotten worse under Donald Trump. Seven million people have lost their health insurance under his presidency.” — Medium article published Monday introducing her “Medicare for All” plan.

THE FACTS: Harris is selectively marshaling her evidence, citing a survey that has found a significant increase in the number of uninsured adults under Trump while ignoring others that show coverage basically holding steady.

Under Trump, the U.S. has not advanced in reducing the number of uninsured, but major studies differ on whether there’s been significant backsliding, as Harris asserts.

Harris’ numbers come from the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index , which found the uninsured rate among adults has gone up. Gallup reported that nearly 14% of adults were uninsured in the last three months of 2018. That translates to about 7 million more uninsured adults since 2016, the last full year of President Barack Obama’s tenure. Gallup measured adults only.

However, there’s been no major slippage in an ongoing survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC estimated that 30.4 million Americans of all ages were uninsured last year, or 9.4% of the population. That compares with 28.6 million uninsured, or 9% of the population, in 2016. CDC says those changes reflected in the National Health Interview Survey are not statistically significant because such surveys are not precise enough to measure differences that small.

An estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finds an increase of 1.4 million uninsured people under age 65 from 2016 to 2018.

A private study tracks with the government’s findings. The Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey found no statistically significant change in the uninsured rate among adults ages 19 to 64 from 2016 to 2018, at about 12%.

The picture may get clearer by the time Americans elect their next president. The previous Republican-led Congress repealed “Obamacare” fines on people who remain uninsured. That change took effect this year, and experts believe it will prompt some people to drop coverage. The uninsured rate may well go up, but Harris will have to wait for a definitive ruling.

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