Over Five Million Have Lost Employer-Based Health Insurance, Study Finds

People wait to speak with representatives from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission about unemployment claims Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Midwest City, Okla.

People wait to speak with representatives from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission about unemployment claims Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Midwest City, Okla. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

 

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The losses have come as the coronavirus outbreak has caused widespread layoffs and furloughs. Nearly half of those who lost their insurance are concentrated in five states.

The number of Americans who’ve lost health insurance coverage through their employer after getting laid off from their jobs has increased sharply during the first half of this year as the coronavirus hammered the economy.

Between February and May, about 5.4 million who were laid off from their jobs or otherwise left the labor force lost their health coverage, according to a new report from Families USA, a consumer-focused health care advocacy group. The study says that this rise in the number of uninsured adults was 39% higher than any previous annual increase ever recorded.

The loss estimates presented in the report don’t account for workers’ family members who also may have lost coverage. The U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month reported that the unemployment rate in June was 11.1% and that an estimated 17.8 million people were unemployed.

Nationwide, the number of uninsured adults in May was 30.7 million, the report says, compared to 25.4 million in 2018.

Forty-six percent of the overall increase in the number of uninsured adults described in the report took place in just five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina. 

Along with Texas, Florida and North Carolina, there are five other states (Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina) where at least one-in-five adults under 65 were uninsured in May, according to estimates in the report.

California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi have all seen the virus surge in recent days and weeks, increasing the odds of prolonged economic disruption and job losses. The increased spread of the virus also means that people will need to seek health care for issues related to the illness.

Families USA points to two pieces of legislation in the U.S. House that could help with the insurance losses.

One is the so-called HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief measure that Democrats ushered through the chamber in May. Notably, that bill would provide subsidies to cover premium costs for laid off or furloughed workers who seek coverage through the insurance program known as COBRA.

The bill contains other provisions that Families USA says would help as well, like extending higher federal match rates to states for Medicaid programs if states agree to not reduce coverage, and providing federal Medicaid funding to cover certain coronavirus treatment costs.

There’s also the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, which would boost tax credits to help laid-off workers and others who lack COBRA or Medicaid coverage more easily afford to purchase private health insurance.

The Republican-controlled Senate so far hasn’t taken action to push either bill closer towards final passage.

A full copy of the Families USA report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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