'Focused on survival': Millions of laid-off Americans still living without health insurance

With hundreds of thousands of Americans filing new jobless claims each week, the estimated number of adults in the United States currently without health insurance is sobering evidence of the difficulties laid-off workers face.
Since the onset of COVID-19 in mid-March, workers who have lost work-related health insurance (ESI) are far more numerous than workers who have been insured through either a public or private option, according to recent surveys and estimates.
Data from recent surveys and historical trends suggests that around 4.6 to 5.6 million workers who have lost work-related coverage since March are no longer insured.
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), an estimated 12 million people previously insured under an ESI plan lost coverage between February and July. Two separate surveys, conducted by the US Census Household Pulse Survey and the Urban Institute, come together to conclude that between 10 and 11 million people lost ESI coverage from March to late July.
Sign ad-free influenza vaccines (flu shots) for patients with insurance coverage in a Safeway grocery store, San Ramon, Calif., September 12, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)
"That's three times the largest year-long coverage loss during the Great Recession," said Stan Dorn, director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, a consumer health advocacy group, of the four-person numbers. up to five months. "That would be the biggest loss to ESI in American history."
"We don't really know how many people have lost cover."
It is impossible to determine the exact number of those who have lost and not regained coverage, explained Dorn, as there is no central reporting service for health insurance.
“We don't yet know how many people have lost their work-related insurance or would otherwise not be insured, but we see that the marketplaces serve as a safety net,” said Jennifer Tolbert, deputy director of the Kaiser family's program of the foundation (KFF ) to Medicaid and the uninsured, Yahoo Finance announced.
Still, Tolbert said, certain laid-off workers who have lost work-related coverage may not be able to replace it.
On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) reported that 12.6 million U.S. workers applied for continued unemployment in the week ended September 12. The number of new unemployment claims for the week ending September 19 was 870,000, making the total number of people eligible for unemployment benefit in all programs 26 million.
People line up outside a Kentucky Career Center in hope of assistance with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Kentucky, United States, on June 18, 2020. REUTERS / Bryan Woolston
Based on data extrapolated from historical layoffs, Families USA estimated that between February and May 5.4 million people were uninsured due to the loss of job-related plans.
However, data from recent surveys showed that the ESI losses are more significant.
America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) estimated that 7.5 million people lost their work-related coverage between April and May.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which funded a study conducted by the Urban Institute using data from the Household Impulse Survey, estimated that 3.3 million adults under 65 lost the ESI between late April and late July.
Together, according to Dorn, the overlapping time frames indicate that between the middle and the end of July between 10 and 11 million employees lost their professional cover.
Additionally, he said, "We don't really know how many people lost coverage from March to May, and that's when the deepest job losses occurred, but we do know it's over 2 million."
Participants with a Medicaid Cuts Kill sign at a rally in Brooklyn in July. (Photo by Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images)
RWJF estimates that 2.2 million adults were publicly recorded between the end of April and the end of July. Most of this coverage was obtained through Medicaid. During the timeframe, there was no significant change in private non-group coverage, the foundation said.
"A large number of these participants are in Medicaid, not in exchanges," Dorn said, explaining that for an even broader period from February to last month data available from states (June to July to August) , The number of people covered by Medicaid increased by 4.4 million.
"People usually focus on survival needs"
Between December 15, 2019 and May 2020, KFF announced that 486,954 people had received market coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through special enrollments - enrollments outside the regular enrollment period. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported a similar but more conservative number. It is estimated that between December 15 and June 25, 487,000 people signed up for an ACA exchange plan.
Dorn said it was common for those who have lost their occupational insurance to forego it. Dismissed workers and their families are an extremely difficult population to have health insurance. In 2009, less than 15% of people who lost ESI and qualified for special enrollment chose coverage.
“The problem is that when you lose your job, it's emotional. It's traumatic, ”he said. “The literature reports symptoms of depression and anxiety. People tend to focus on survival needs and don't get unemployment insurance. Unless you have a serious health problem, insurance is simply not a priority. "
Tolbert said affordability remains a major concern for those who are not eligible for Medicaid, which does not charge any premiums.
"I think there can certainly be an affordability challenge for middle-income individuals when it comes to enrolling for market coverage," said Tolbert. "Given this economic uncertainty, if they are worried about paying rent or buying groceries, they may make a decision that they simply cannot afford to pay these premiums."
Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy advisor for RWJF, said Medicaid's eligibility depends largely on the state the laid-off worker lives in and based on current monthly earnings.
In states that have expanded Medicaid, those with current monthly incomes less than 138% of federal poverty are eligible. For a family of three, the limit is approximately $ 2,500 per month. For one person, the limit is approximately $ 1,466 per month.
In states where Medicaid has not expanded, eligibility is restricted to parents with minor children whose median income is below 40% of federal poverty or whose 2019 annual income for a family of three did not exceed $ 8,532.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter at Yahoo Finance and a former litigation attorney.
Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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