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COVID & Unemployment

Millions of newly unemployed Americans have lost health insurance, study finds

David Brancaccio, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 14, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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An ambulance sits in the emergency room bay of Lincoln Medical Center on April 16, 2020. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Millions of newly unemployed Americans have lost health insurance, study finds

David Brancaccio, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 14, 2020
An ambulance sits in the emergency room bay of Lincoln Medical Center on April 16, 2020. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A new study finds that more than 5 million of those laid off also lost their health insurance and didn’t find an alternative.

Marketplace’s Nova Safo is following this. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.

David Brancaccio: Nova, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid are among the safety nets designed to get people insured, so why have so many been left without coverage?

Nova Safo: The health care advocacy group Families USA, which put out this study, says these are people who have fallen between the cracks in the system. And it’s a lot of people ⁠— nearly 5.4 million workers.

I spoke this morning with Stan Dorn, who authored the study, and he says there’s just more need for health insurance coverage than the current system is designed to handle:

“Help may not be enough to make coverage affordable. Medicaid is affordable. But there are millions of people who live in states that have not expanded Medicaid and they may be ineligible for Medicaid. And, also, the subsidies in the exchange is just not enough to make coverage realistically affordable.”

And there’s another problem: Unemployed workers are getting that additional $600 a week in pandemic aid. That counts as income in the health insurance marketplace, and the more income you have, the less money in subsidies you get to pay the monthly premiums. So you have a situation where people are getting needed financial aid, but it’s making health insurance less affordable, and they’re doing without.

Brancaccio: How many people total are uninsured now in the United States?

Safo: The exact number we won’t know until sometime next year, when the federal government releases figures. But Families USA estimates that nearly 31 million adults in this country now don’t have health insurance coverage.

And Dorn wants lawmakers to act:

“Congress needs to provide financial assistance so that people in hard times can afford insurance. We all have trouble affording insurance ⁠— or many of us have trouble affording insurance, even in good times. In tough times, people need extra help.”

It’s worth pointing out: In seven states that have more significant problems with number of uninsured adults, COVID-19 infections are now spiking.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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