The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of Americans’ lives, and this extends to their health insurance coverage as well. According to Families USA, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that focuses on health care advocacy, approximately 5.4 million American workers have lost coverage starting from February to May. This number does not include the family members of those who were covered by an employer-provided health insurance; if that number were included, the Kaiser Family Foundation, another nonprofit organization, estimates that 27 million Americans had lost coverage.
Families USA stated that the increase in uninsured workers during this period was nearly 40% higher than in the 2008-2009 recession, when 3.9 million workers became uninsured.
As health insurance is often provided by employers, those who have lost health insurance due to losing their jobs can face a huge burden should they or any of their family members contract the coronavirus. And while the Kaiser Family Foundation states that four out of five people who lost employer-provided health insurance during the pandemic are eligible for coverage through Medicaid programs or government-subsidized private insurance, they also acknowledged that it would be a challenge to get the recently unemployed insurance. They may be unable to afford premiums for COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which provides temporary coverage for workers who lost their jobs. Or, they might not even know that they qualify for Medicaid.
Trump has promised to directly reimburse hospitals to care for coronavirus patients who have lost their insurance, but on the whole, the Trump administration’s actions have been seen as counterproductive to the efforts to assist people in getting insurance. They imposed cuts on funding for outreach programs that would help people sign up for government-provided insurance. White House lawyers have asked to the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare completely which would throw millions more off of their coverage.
Health care advocacy groups argue that insurance would help contain COVID-19, since uninsured people tend to avoid going to hospitals. If they are correct, that means that the millions of workers’ lack of insurance is causing the pandemic to be worsened.