An estimated 48 million nonelderly people in the United States will be part of a household where someone loses a job as a result of COVID-19, based on an assessment of pandemic-related job loss covering the last nine months of 2020. Findings are highlighted in a new analysis prepared by researchers at the Urban Institute, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Many of the workers and family members experiencing job loss within the family either had insurance through another family member’s job (34%) or through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (27%) prior to the pandemic. Just about one-fifth of these people (10.1 million) had insurance tied to the job lost due to COVID-19. Smaller shares had coverage through the nongroup insurance market, other public programs, or were uninsured. This implies the COVID-19 recession is disproportionately affecting workers paid low wages, many of whom did not have employer-sponsored coverage even when they were working.
“The COVID-19 recession has disproportionately affected the lowest paid workers, who are the least likely to have work-based health insurance,” said Katherine Hempstead, senior policy advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The loss of jobs and coverage associated with the pandemic is a huge test for our safety net, but it may not be the inflection point for the employer market that many predicted.”
Researchers estimate that by the end of 2020, 10.1 million people will no longer have employer-sponsored health insurance or coverage that was tied to a job they lost due to COVID-19.
Of these, projections show 3.3 million people will regain employer-sponsored insurance by being added to a family member’s policy, 2.8 million people will enroll in Medicaid, and 600,000 people will enroll in the individual market, mainly via the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, which uses premium tax credits to make coverage more affordable. Researchers estimate 3.5 million people will become uninsured.
Further, they estimate that the uninsurance rate for the nonelderly population will climb to 9.2 percent over all states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and to 15.6 percent over all states that have not expanded eligibility. Higher percentages of people losing their employer insurance will become uninsured in states that did not expand eligibility.
Researchers’ projections incorporate data on employment losses by industry, state, and demographic characteristics regularly published by the U.S. Department of Labor.