David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

With job losses, workers and their families lose health insurance coverage

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 27, 2020
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

More than 27 million people were on some form of unemployment at last count. And it’s not just income those folks have lost, but likely health insurance, too.

Denese Freeman said she lost her graphic design job at a hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma, in June.

“It was pretty stunning to be laid off,” Freeman said. And the 58-year-old lost her health insurance.

“I’m a diabetic, and I was on like 14 different medications,” she said. “And I had enough medication to last me maybe 2 1/2 weeks.”

An estimated 12 million people have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. That includes family members of those who lost jobs.

“The United States has chosen to really link health insurance coverage with employment,” said report co-author Ben Zipperer.

Zipperer said that when people are laid off, they can extend their coverage through COBRA.That can be expensive. Low-income people may qualify for Medicaid, but access varies by state.

Denise Freeman was among those able to buy a subsidized plan on the health insurance exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?

Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

Read More


As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.

There’s a LOT to celebrate!

It’s National Pumpkin Spice Day, the last day of our fall fundraiser, and thousands of fans like you have invested in Marketplace.

You inspire us, and your support makes us stronger, especially now.