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COVID-19

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

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 27, 2020
Heard on:
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
COVID-19

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

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 27, 2020
Heard on:
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

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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