Unemployed and Uninsured: Helping Your Patients Find Coverage

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed sweeping gaps in our healthcare system. For so many people, losing a job can feel like a death sentence as they miss out on all the benefits of employment. Millions of people have lost their jobs due to the crisis, which means they no longer have health insurance. This has only fueled the flames of the pandemic as these individuals either forgo care or look for low-cost alternatives.

Around half of all Americans get health insurance through their employers, but this model may not be sustainable as the pandemic stretches on. Find out how the coronavirus is shaking up the insurance industry.

From Outbreaks and Shutdowns to No Insurance

The lack of health insurance amid the pandemic hasn’t gotten as much attention as you’d might expect with everything that’s been going on in the news. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that at least 27 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance since the start of the pandemic in March.

However, these losses have been rather lopsided. So far, the states that closed down the earliest and the longest seem to have the bulk of the newly uninsured, including Massachusetts, which saw a 93% increase in the number of uninsured adults compared to 2018. Michigan, one of the hardest hit states in the country, saw a 46% increase in the number of adults without health insurance.

States that rely heavily on the tourism and hospitality industries have also suffered disproportionately as well, including Rhode Island, Nevada, and California. We may see these trends change as some states start to recover from the pandemic while others struggle. The virus is currently devastating Texas, Arizona, Florida, and the Carolinas, so these states may see an uptick in the number of uninsured adults in the coming months.

What’s Ahead?

Economists and health experts are still trying to figure out the long-term consequences of this trend. According to a new report from the Urban Institute, more than 10 million Americans are expected to lose employer-sponsored health coverage between April and December 2020.

The report also anticipates what these individuals and families will do next. It predicts that of this additional 10 million, 3.3 million will join a family member’s plan, 2.8 million will sign up for Medicaid, and 600,000 people will sign up for a policy on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. However, 5.3 million people will go without health insurance after losing their jobs.

So, why do we tie health insurance to employment? The truth is that many people do not know what to do when they lose their job. They may be more worried about paying their bills, feeding their family, and avoiding foreclosure than signing up for a new health insurance policy.

Studies show that 21% of uninsured adults say that they regularly go without needed care because of cost compared to 4% of adults with private coverage and 7% of adults with public coverage. Also, 52% say they do not have a regular place to go when they are sick or need medical advice.

What to Do If Your Patients Don’t Have Insurance

As healthcare providers, we need to make sure we are reaching out to those that do not have health insurance. If you know someone who lost coverage due to the pandemic, let them know they still have options.

The Affordable Care Act was meant to help unemployed and low-income individuals find a great health policy. Patients can enroll in a policy using the ACA’s Special Enrollment Period, which allows people to sign up for coverage outside of the usual enrollment period. People who have lost their jobs can take advantage of this option because they have suffered what’s known as a “qualifying event,” or something outside their control, like a global pandemic.

The SEP option is only available in some states, however. Uninsured individuals can also look for policies on Medicaid or sign up through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, which allows the individual to continue the same health care coverage they had under their employer-based health insurance.

Uninsured individuals are much more likely to suffer from chronic disease or go into medical debt. Everyone should have access to healthcare during the pandemic. Help your patients find coverage sooner rather than later.

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