Coronavirus: Millions could lose employer-sponsored health insurance

October 8, 2020

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to an estimated 14.6 million Americans being in danger of losing their health insurance.

A new study paints a grim picture of health insurance coverage in the U.S. during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The study was released by The Commonwealth Fund, Employee Benefit Research Institute, and W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and found that an estimated 7.7 million U.S. workers lost jobs which provided employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) by June leaving them and 6.9 million of their dependents, or 14.6 million Americans, with the possibility of losing health insurance during a global pandemic that has already killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.

The authors of the study say that the path between losing a job that provides ESI and losing benefits is not direct and it depends on three factors:

  • Whether the job loss is temporary or permanent, and, if temporary, whether the employer continue ESI benefits until the employee is called back to work.
  • Whether the temporary layoffs which maintain ESI benefits become permanent with loss of ESI.
  • Whether the workers who have lost ESI will obtain coverage through another family member, COBRA, the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, or Medicaid.

Of those who lost ESI-covered jobs, workers age 35 to 44 and age 45 to 54 saw the greatest losses accounting for 17 to 19 percent of workers who lost jobs, but 22 to 27 percent of potentially affected individuals including dependents because workers in these groups were most likely to be covering a spouse and other dependents, the study says.

This study is just another glimpse of the carnage the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the U.S. economy and how that has impacted insurance coverage across the country. A previous survey from The Commonwealth Fund showed that 43.4 percent of adults between the ages of 19 and 64 were adequately insured prior to the beginning the pandemic.

This latest study comes less than a month before the U.S. General Election. Voters have already said that dealing with the public health need and economic fallout of COVID-19 and protecting insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions are top priorities when they are making their choice on who will be president.