Originally published by The New York Times
A record 5.4 million people lost their health coverage amid the pandemic, a study found.
The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.
As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.
“We knew these numbers would be big,’’ said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and was the author of the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”
The findings are certain to fuel the debate in Congress over the next round of virus relief.
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 study comes in the thick of the campaign season, when health care — and in particular the Affordable Care Act — is expected to be a major issue.
Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., are seeking to expand the law, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. But President Trump and Republicans have pressed to repeal it, and the administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn it.
Definitive data on loss of coverage will not be available until mid- to late-2021, when the federal government publishes health insurance estimates for 2020.
“But,” Mr. Dorn said, “policymakers need to know now what the approximate magnitude is of insurance losses to decide what they need to do. So this is our best estimate for what the actual coverage losses have been.”