COVID-19 Resource Center
COVID-19 Resource Center
Source/Disclosures
Source:

Families USA. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History. https://www.familiesusa.org/resources/the-covid-19-pandemic-and-resulting-economic-crash-have-caused-the-greatest-health-insurance-losses-in-american-history/. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Disclosures: Himmelstein reports no relevant financial disclosures.
July 20, 2020
2 min read
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Millions left uninsured due to COVID-19 pandemic-related unemployment

Source/Disclosures
Source:

Families USA. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History. https://www.familiesusa.org/resources/the-covid-19-pandemic-and-resulting-economic-crash-have-caused-the-greatest-health-insurance-losses-in-american-history/. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Disclosures: Himmelstein reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Approximately 5.4 million people across the United States have become uninsured after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn, according to a report published by Families USA.

“The greatest public health crisis in a century has caused the deepest economic crash since World War II,” the report states. “In a few short months, millions of workers lost their jobs.”

Loss of insurance in US from February through May 2020
Reference: Families USA. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History. https://www.familiesusa.org/resources/the-covid-19-pandemic-and-resulting-economic-crash-have-caused-the-greatest-health-insurance-losses-in-american-history/. Accessed July 16, 2020.

To estimate the number of newly uninsured people across the United States, researchers used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the difference in unemployed workers and adults who were not in the labor force from each state from February through May.

They then applied the numbers to research findings from the Urban Institute on insurance coverage in the U.S. since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) main coverage provisions went into place in 2014. 

Researchers found that in this time, 21.9 million workers in the U.S. lost their jobs, and an estimated 5.4 million subsequently became uninsured. They noted that this number does not include workers’ family members who may have also lost health insurance.

According to the researchers, the increase in the number of uninsured adults in this 3-month period was 39% greater than any previously recorded annual increase, including the 2008 to 2009 increase, when the number of uninsured adults jumped by 3.9 million in the U.S.

The report says that five states — California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Texas — made up 46% of the increase in uninsured adults in the U.S.

Another five states experienced more than 40% increases in the number of uninsured adults, with increases of 93% in Massachusetts, 72% in Hawaii, 55% in Rhode Island, 46% in Michigan, and 43% in New Hampshire.

Researchers noted that no COVID-19-releate federal legislature signed into law has included attempts to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance. They urged lawmakers to fill this gap in a subsequent bill.

Photo of David U. Himmelstein
David U. Himmelstein

“Based on several careful studies carried out over the past 20 years, we know that for 769 people who are uninsured, 1 person will die each year,” David U. Himmelstein, MD, professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health at Hunter College who is not affiliated with the report, told Healio Primary Care. “So, 5.4 million newly uninsured translates to about 7,000 extra deaths this year.”

He said this number is likely to increase before the end of the pandemic.

Although the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, passed by the House, would provide full premium subsidies to laid-off and furloughed workers who were offered employer coverage, Himmelstein noted that another, more controversial, measure would be effective.

“Medicare for All is the only reform that can really address the health care crisis,” Himmelstein said. “Lesser measures will cost more and deliver less.”

References:

Families USA. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History. https://www.familiesusa.org/resources/the-covid-19-pandemic-and-resulting-economic-crash-have-caused-the-greatest-health-insurance-losses-in-american-history/. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Himmelstein DU, et al. Am J Public Health. 2017;doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303729.