More than 10 million people could lose health insurance due to a pandemic-related job loss by the end of the year, but many will regain coverage by other means, according to new analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data.
A much smaller portion of those individuals — an estimated 3.3 million people — who are unable to get coverage elsewhere will become uninsured, according to a new report by the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy think tank in Washington.
Though staggering, the numbers represent a small portion of 48 million Americans who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.
Earlier models predicted that uninsured rates would soar as unemployment rose because employer-sponsored health insurance is the most common type of coverage for individuals under age 65. But analysis by the Urban Institute found that a majority of the people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic weren’t getting insurance through their employer to begin with, said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy in Princeton that funds health-care research.
“The COVID-19 recession has disproportionately affected the lowest-paid workers, who are the least likely to have work-based health insurance,” Hempstead said.
Companies with fewer than 50 full-time-equivalent employees are not required to offer health insurance to workers. Restaurants and retail stores that employ primarily part-time workers, as well as small businesses, have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. They are also among the types of businesses where employees already had to look elsewhere for health insurance.
The Urban Institute report found that among the 48 million people who have lost jobs during the pandemic about 60% already had insurance from a source other than their employer:
The report estimates that of the 10.1 million people who lose their job and their insurance, about 34.6% — or 3.5 million — will remain uninsured. Many more will obtain insurance elsewhere:
How many people are able to get coverage elsewhere will depend on where they live. In states that expanded Medicaid, people who are newly unemployed and uninsured may qualify for Medicaid coverage.
The ACA marketplace, healthcare.gov, is typically open only during a designated annual enrollment period in the fall, but people who lose a job or experience another “life event,” such as getting married or moving to a different state, can qualify for a special enrollment period.
The report estimates the uninsured rate will rise to just over 9% in states that expanded Medicaid, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States that did not expand Medicaid could see much higher uninsured rates close to 16%.