Government health coverage might now exceed private coverage in US

By | June 26, 2021

The United States might be at the point where government health coverage exceeds private health insurance.

Roughly 150 million people have some form of taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, while about 153 million have employer-provided coverage, a recent analysis by Yahoo Finance found. The analysis, though, left out the 9 million employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which would mean that 159 million people have taxpayer-subsidized coverage.

The analysis also doesn’t include the roughly 19 million state and local government employees, many of whom also have government health coverage.


Of the 150 million figure, 64 million are enrolled in Medicare, 80.5 million are enrolled in Medicaid, 13 million have plans through the Obamacare exchanges, 9.6 million have Pentagon Tricare coverage, and 9 million are enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration. That actually amounts to about 166 million; however, millions of low-income people are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, which likely reduced the number to 150 million.

“Our system is not nearly as private as people might think,” Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Yahoo Finance. “The government plays a huge role in our healthcare system. We’re at or very close to the point where more people are getting coverage sponsored by the government than by employers.”

Prior to 2020, the number of people enrolled in government health coverage would have been considerably fewer, as the pandemic swelled the Medicaid rolls by nearly 10 million.

Those with private coverage would have numbered closer to 161 million, as 158 million would have had employer-based coverage, and another 3 million either received no subsidy for private coverage on the Obamacare exchanges or had private individual insurance off of the exchanges. An estimated 5 million people lost employer coverage during the pandemic. In early 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which expanded subsidies for two years for people who got coverage on the exchanges, likely decreasing the number of people without taxpayer-subsidized insurance.


Democrats are pushing to expand government coverage. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone is looking to make the expanded Obamacare subsidies permanent, while others are pushing for a public option and to reduce the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60.