By Kimberly Largent
Four in 10 residents in states that have not expanded Medicaid may be uncovered by health insurance because of COVID-related unemployment, according to new research.
Between 25 and 43 million unemployed workers could lose employer-sponsored health insurance, creating a dramatic shift in the health insurance coverage landscape, according to The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Urban Institute. Those affected by loss of coverage would be forced to enroll in Medicaid, purchase coverage through the Marketplace or become uninsured.
Researchers also found that in the 15 states where Medicaid was not expanded, only about 33% of the newly unemployed will enroll in Medicaid, which means the uninsured rate in those states will increase to almost 40%.
In states where Medicaid coverage was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, researchers predict that 50% of the newly unemployed will turn to Medicaid, and 25% will fall into the uninsured category.
Pre-COVID-19, approximately 160 million U.S. workers had health insurance through their employers. When COVID-19 took hold, 30 million workers filed for unemployment in the span of 40 days, March 15 through April 25.
“With historic levels of joblessness around the corner, millions of workers and their families are about to lose their employer coverage,” said Katherine Hempstead, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s senior policy advisor. “Our safety net is about to be tested, and it’s going to work a lot better in states that expanded Medicaid.”
The research brief highlights several policy options that could not only alleviate the financial strain to states’ budgets but also mitigate a sharp rise in the percentage of uninsureds. One options would be to expand Medicaid in non-expansion states—which would broaden the income bracket for premium subsidies for anyone purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace, provide subsidies for purchasing COBRA policies, and make Medicaid matching rates more attractive.
Kimberly Largent is a Central Pennsylvania writer and editor. Previously she was a journalist and director of print media for a health care industry publishing company.
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