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Millions have lost health insurance in the epidemic-driven recession

The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million American workers of health insurance between February and May, a period in which more adults were left without insurance due to job losses than ever before losing coverage in a year, according to a new analysis.

The study, to be announced Tuesday by a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families in the United States, found that the estimated increase in uninsured workers from February to May was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest increase. earlier, which occurred during the Recession in 2008 and 2009, when 3.9 million adults lost insurance.

"We knew these numbers were going to be big," said Stan Dorn, who runs the National Center for Cover and Studybook Innovation. This is the worst economic recession since World War II. The Great Recession dwarfs. So it is not surprising that we have also seen the worst increase in the uninsured. "

USA Families is one of several groups trying to estimate how many people have lost insurance during the pandemic; Final data won't be available until mid-to-late 2021, when the federal government releases its 2020 health insurance estimates. The analyzes differ, but they all come to the same grim conclusion: more people are uninsured than ever.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 27 million Americans have lost coverage during the pandemic. This study took into account the family members of the insured. Another analysis, released Monday by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, predicts that by the end of 2020, 10.1 million people will have no employer-sponsored health insurance or job-related coverage they lost due to the pandemic. .

And those who lose coverage could face high costs if they contract the Covid-19 virus, which has sent critically ill patients to hospital intensive care units for weeks, sometimes months.

The studies come at the height of the campaign season, when healthcare, and especially the future of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is a major issue. Democrats and their presumed presidential candidate, Joseph Biden Jr., want to expand the law. President Trump asked the Supreme Court to revoke it.

Four out of five people who lose employer-provided health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for free coverage through expanded Medicaid programs or government-backed private insurance through the Obama-era Health Act , according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But experts say insuring the recently unemployed is a tough challenge. Many people are unable to pay insurance premiums for coverage through the Health Care Act or the program known as COBRA, for the Uniform Comprehensive Budget Settlement Act. Others may not know that they are eligible for Medicaid.

The White House and Congress did little to help. The Trump administration imposed steep funding cuts for outreach programs that help people enroll in Health Act coverage. While Democratic lawmakers passed legislation designed to help people keep their health insurance, the bill is stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Rather than expanding access to insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act, Trump has promised to directly compensate hospitals for caring for coronavirus patients who have lost their insurance. But there is little evidence that it started.

"Helping people keep their insurance during a public health crisis has not received much attention," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. "This is the first recession in which ACA exists as a safety net, but it is an imperfect safety net."

The US Family Study is a case-by-case study of the effects of the epidemic on demobilized adults under 65, the age at which Americans qualify for Medicare. And it found that nearly half (46 percent) of coverage losses from the epidemic occurred in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina.

In Texas alone, the number of uninsured people increased from approximately 4.3 million to almost 4.9 million; The research found that three out of 10 Texans are uninsured. In the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 23 percent of laid off workers were left without insurance; The proportion was nearly double (43 percent) in the 13 states that did not expand Medicaid, which includes Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

The analysis found that five states saw an increase in the number of uninsured adults by more than 40 percent. In Massachusetts, the number nearly doubled, increasing by 93 percent, a figure Dorn attributes to the large number of people who have lost employer coverage there. The analysis found that more than one in seven adults nationwide, 16 percent, are now uninsured.

To create the estimates, Mr. Dorn examined the number of laid-off workers in each state and counted the number who had become uninsured based on coverage patterns since 2014, when the core provisions of the Care Act went into effect. of Health at Low Price. The basic data for these patterns comes from work published by the Urban Institute in April.

Although analysts will have a clearer picture of the actual numbers in the next year, Mr. Dorn said: "Policymakers now need to know the approximate size of insurance losses to determine what to do. So this is it. our best estimate of actual coverage losses. "

Democrats and health advocacy groups argue that the importance of insurance coverage goes beyond personal well-being because the uninsured tend to avoid going to the doctor and this exposes others to infectious disease outbreaks like Covid-19.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patti Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, has been lobbying the Trump administration to do a better job promoting a provision in the Affordable Care Act that creates a special enrollment period for people who lose their jobs.

Ms. Murray and other Democrats also called on the federal government to provide financial assistance to help laid off workers maintain coverage through COBRA, and to provide states that refused to expand Medicaid an incentive to do so, increasing a part of the cost.

"Taking steps like these to help people access health care during a pandemic shouldn't be controversial, it should make sense," Murray said in an email, "and we should do it now instead of waiting for things to get worse. ".