An estimated 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance between February and May after being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, a recent study found. The number of newly uninsured in that three-month span dwarfs all prior annual records for workers losing their health coverage.
The study conducted by Families USA, a non-partisan healthcare advocacy group, found that 5.4 million American workers became uninsured from February to May of this year as a result of the wave of job losses from the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of people who lost their health insurance in that three-month span is greater than the loss of coverage in any single year.
“These recent increases in the number of uninsured adults are 39 percent higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million nonelderly adults became uninsured,” said Stan Dorn, the study’s author and the director of Families USA’s National Center for Coverage Innovation.
“This is the worst economic downturn since World War II,” Dorn noted. “It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”
The New York Times reports:
The study is a state-by-state examination of the effects of the pandemic on laid-off adults younger than 65, the age at which Americans become eligible for Medicare. It found that nearly half — 46 percent — of the coverage losses from the pandemic came in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.
In Texas alone, the number of uninsured jumped from about 4.2 million to nearly 4.9 million, the research found, leaving three out of every 10 Texans uninsured.
In the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 23 percent of laid off workers became uninsured. The percentage was nearly double that — 43 percent — in the 13 states that did not expand Medicaid, which include Texas, Florida and North Carolina.
The record number of newly uninsured Americans is certain to become a major political issue in the November presidential election, as the fate of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act continues to hang in the balance.
The Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has made the protection and expansion of Obamacare one of the signature issues of his campaign.
In April, the Trump administration decided against reopening the Obamacare exchanges for a special enrollment period that would have made it easier for recently laid off workers to get coverage on the exchanges after losing their employer-based health insurance. However, workers who lost their employer coverage are still qualified to enroll on the exchanges if they provide proof of their lost coverage. A special enrollment period would have simplified the process without the extra paperwork.
The Trump administration also recently filed a brief in support of a challenge to the Affordable Care Act brought by a coalition of Republican attorneys general hoping to dismantle the entire healthcare program. This would include removing the protections for people with preexisting conditions, a policy which is widely popular with a majority of Americans, including Republican voters. An estimated 50 to 129 million Americans have preexisting conditions and could be at risk of having their coverage denied or curtailed or having their premiums rise precipitously.
Biden criticized the action, accusing Trump of trying “to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families, and to strip the peace of mind away from more than 100 million people with preexisting conditions.”