Families USA: #COVID19 pandemic has caused at least 5.4 million* Americans to lose healthcare coverage

*(more, really...see below)

I've referenced Families USA several times before (and I've attended their annual conference for the past three years), but for those not familiar with them:

Families USA, a leading national, non-partisan voice for health care consumers, is dedicated to achieving high-quality, affordable health care and improved health for all. Our work is driven by and centered around four pillars: value, equity, coverage, and consumer experience. We view these focus areas — and the various issues unique to each area — as the cornerstones of America’s health care system.

Public policy analysis that is rooted in Hill and administration experience, movement-building advocacy, and collaboration with partners are deep-rooted hallmarks of our work. In turn, our work promotes a health system that protects consumers’ financial security as much as it does their health care security.

As we advance our mission by combining policy expertise and partnerships with community, state, and national leaders, we forge transformational solutions that improve the health and health care of our nation’s families and speak to the values we all have in common.

Yesterday Stan Dorn of Families USA released an important new report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (and the resulting economic meltdown) on healthcare coverage in America. Their main findings aren't that shocking, but it's still important to have them quantified. Here's the summary of their indings:

  • An estimated 5.4 million workers are becoming uninsured because of job losses they experienced from February to May of this year.
  • These estimated increases in the number of uninsured adults would be 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million nonelderly adults became uninsured.
  • Nearly half (46%) of the increases in the uninsured resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crash have occurred in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.
  • In eight states 20% or more of adults are now uninsured: Texas, where nearly three in ten adults under age 65 are uninsured (29%); Florida (25%); Oklahoma (24%); Georgia (23%); Mississippi (22%); Nevada (21%); North Carolina (20%); and South Carolina (20%). All but Oklahoma are also among the 15 states with the country's highest spike in new COVID-19 cases during the week ending on July 12.
  • Five states have experienced increases in the number of uninsured adults that exceed 40%: Massachusetts, where the number nearly doubled, rising by 93%; Hawaii (72%); Rhode Island (55%); Michigan (46%); and New Hampshire (43%).
  • No federal COVID-19 legislation signed into law has attempted to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance, which improves health outcomes, limits financial insecurity, and promotes economic recovery. Federal lawmakers can fill that gap in the next COVID-19 bill.

It's important to clarify that this report only runs through the end of May, which means that the millions of additional Americans who've lost their jobs (and their healthcare in many cases)since May aren't included. It's also important to note that the 5.4 million figure only includes the employees themselves, not their family members, which means the actual number is likely more than double that (the average size of a household in the United States is 2.6 people, but that doesn't necessarily equate to everyone in these households losing coverage; some children or spouses are presumably on CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare or an ACA exchange policy).

The actual total is, therefore, likely more like 10 - 14 million people...and again, that only runs through the end of May. Some 500,000 more people have enrolled in ACA exchange coverage between March and May than typically would have during that time period, and millions more have presumably enrolled in Medicaid in expansion states thanks to the ACA as well...but there are still tens of millions more who could and should be covered but who aren't.

The Families USA report specifies specific responses to this problem...two of which have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives aren are sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk gathering dust even as I type this:

Congress Can Address These Coverage Losses by Protecting Comprehensive Health Insurance in the Next COVID-19 Bill

The House has passed legislation that would restore lost health insurance coverage and prevent further erosion

  • » The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) would provide full premium subsidies for laid-off and furloughed workers offered employer coverage, including through COBRA. Among other features, the HEROES Act would also:
    • Give Medicaid programs enhanced federal matching rates in exchange for states’ continued agreement not to reduce coverage.
    • Open up the federal health insurance exchange to new enrollment, without making the uninsured wait until January 2021 for insurance to begin.
    • Give states a new Medicaid option, with full federal funding, to cover COVID-19 treatment for uninsured residents.
  • H.R. 1425, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, would increase premium tax credits to make private insurance realistically affordable to laid-off workers and other low- and moderate-income uninsured who lack access to COBRA and Medicaid. The bill would also enlarge the circle of insurance coverage through such policies as increasing financial incentives for states to expand Medicaid and providing continuous coverage to the lowest-income uninsured.

The Senate can now build on House legislation by helping laid-off workers enroll in available health insurance

Along with agreeing to the above key provisions from the House legislation, the Senate can make a major contribution by providing significant funding for health consumer assistance. Generally important to program participation, such assistance is fundamental to providing the newly unemployed with health coverage. Frequently traumatized by job loss and focused on survival, many laid-off workers lack the “bandwidth” to learn about health insurance programs and complete all the forms required to enroll. In the past, providing significant consumer assistance has been essential for unemployed workers and their families to obtain health coverage.