Asian Americans Could Lose the Most from an Obamacare Repeal

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Algernon Austin
Algernon Austin Dr. Algernon Austin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Previously, he directed the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE). As the first director of PREE, Algernon built the program over six years into a nationally-recognized source for expert reports and policy analyses on the economic condition of America’s people of color.

Asian Americans may suffer the greatest loss in private health insurance coverage if the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—is ended. The available data suggest that Asian Americans have obtained health insurance through the marketplaces created by Obamacare at a higher rate than other groups. Thus, if Obamacare were repealed, Asian Americans might see their dramatic gains in health insurance coverage reversed.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey do not indicate whether the people who purchased health insurance directly from an insurer did or did not use a marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act. However, there is reason to believe that most of the insurance purchased directly from a health insurance company from 2013 to 2014 was bought through a marketplace, or, at the very least, spurred by the implementation of the Act.

Health Insurance Purchase Race

Figure A shows the rate of enrollment in directly purchased health insurance for adults by race from 2008 to 2014. Asian Americans have the highest rate. For all groups, direct-purchase insurance rates were on a downward trend until 2013, when the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. In 2014, the rates rose for all groups, but Asian Americans’ rate had the steepest growth. Figure B shows that the percentage-point increase from 2013 to 2014 for Asian Americans, at 2.5, was higher than that of all of the other groups.

Percent change in health insurance purchase

It is not clear why Asian Americans might use the Obamacare marketplaces more than other groups. It could be because of the high rate of small business ownership among this group. As small business owners, many of them may not be able to afford a company health insurance policy, but they may have enough income to purchase health insurance as individuals. Others (see here also) argue that Asian American community organizations have had particularly effective outreach on Obamacare.

Although the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance coverage to roughly 20 million Americans, Republicans are determined to dismantle it. They received a victory last week, when a Federal District Court judge supported one of their challenges. If Donald Trump is elected president, it is likely that Obamacare will be repealed and Asian Americans will suffer a huge loss.

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