COVID-19 Causes Millions to Lose Health Insurance Coverage

Karen Veazey
Illustration representing health insurance, including a checklist on a clipboard, female doctor, health care cross and a calculator
Illustration representing health insurance, including a checklist on a clipboard, female doctor, health care cross and a calculator

The economic shutdown put millions of Americans out of work and a new study shows that crisis resulted in a staggering number of people now living without health insurance. The report from nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families USA showed that 5.4 million people lost their health insurance during the period from February to May. That number is 39% higher than any yearly increase in history. Previously the highest recorded increase happened during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 when 3.9 million adults became uninsured.

Across the country as a whole, more than one in seven adults (16%) is now uninsured, following three months of COVID-driven unemployment. This is particularly problematic during a pandemic involving a highly infectious, deadly disease, especially in states that are allowing residents to be in closer personal contact by attempting to reopen their economies. — Families USA

Related:Download The Mighty app to connect in real time with people who can relate to what you're going through.

The Frontlines: The report was compiled from data pulled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on employment and from the Urban Institute on insurance coverage. The numbers of uninsured could be much higher than actually counted as they did not include family members that may have been covered under a worker’s health insurance policy. In eight states 20% or more of adults are now uninsured: Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The report also found:

  • All the states but Oklahoma with 20% or more uninsured are also among the 15 states with the highest spike in new COVID-19 cases during the week ending July 12

  • Between February and May 21.9 million workers lost their jobs or left the workforce

  • Nearly two-thirds of uninsured people live in just 10 states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio

A Mighty Voice: Insurance is definitely a good thing to have but sometimes it doesn’t solve every problem. Especially when your insurance company won’t cover the treatment you need. Our contributor B.L. Acker told her story:

Related:I’m a Teacher, and I’m Scared About Reopening Schools After COVID-19

“Due to this genetic mutation, my liver is incapable of metabolizing folic acid, a simple B vitamin. It is a fairly simple fix because there is an already broken-down version of folic acid on the market, a synthetic version that can help. However, the simple yet life-changing fix has been completely derailed by my insurance company, that refuses to cover it.” You can submit your first person story, too.

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Other things to know: Navigating the world of insurance coverage can be confusing and frustrating. Luckily, we can learn from other people and their experiences. Here are some resources to explore:

What you can do: Living without health insurance presents increased risks. People delay seeking care and can go without important interventions for serious conditions. And when they do seek care medical bills can pile up, creating financial hardship. Thankfully, if you’ve lost coverage due to a change in employment there are some options to find health coverage.

  • COBRA coverage requires employers with 20 or more employees to give their workers the option to continue health coverage for up to 18 months after they leave the position

  • Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act. If you lost health coverage due to job loss you qualify for a special enrollment period.

  • Short-term health insurance may be an option for you. Though not available in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, and New Mexico these short-term policies are meant to provide stop-gap coverage between major insurance coverage. There are limitations; it’s not comprehensive coverage and offers no coverage for pre-existing conditions.

  • Catastrophic health coverage plans will cover you in the event of a major emergency. They are high-deductible, low-premium plans.

  • Medicaid is available to families and individuals with limited income. Eligibility depends on income, assets and household size and varies by state. To find out if you are eligible contact your state’s Medicaid department

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