Commentary, COVID-19

Report: NC is fifth in the nation in lost health insurance coverage due to the COVID-19 recession

A recent report from researchers at the group Families USA tells a sobering story of the impact the current recession is having on millions of adults and their health coverage.

This is from the executive summary to “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History”:

  • An estimated 5.4 million workers are becoming uninsured because of job losses they experienced from February to May of this year.
  • These estimated increases in the number of uninsured adults would be 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million non-elderly adults became uninsured.
  • Nearly half (46%) of the increases in the uninsured resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crash have occurred in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.
  • In eight states 20% or more of adults are now uninsured: Texas, where nearly three in ten adults under age 65 are uninsured (29%); Florida (25%); Oklahoma (24%); Georgia (23%); Mississippi (22%); Nevada (21%); North Carolina (20%); and South Carolina (20%). All but Oklahoma are also among the 15 states with the country’s highest spike in new COVID-19 cases during the week ending on July 12.
  • Five states have experienced increases in the number of uninsured adults that exceed 40%: Massachusetts, where the number nearly doubled, rising by 93%; Hawaii (72%); Rhode Island (55%); Michigan (46%); and New Hampshire (43%).
  • No federal COVID-19 legislation signed into law has attempted to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance, which improves health outcomes, limits financial insecurity, and promotes economic recovery. Federal lawmakers can fill that gap in the next COVID-19 bill.

As the reader can see, North Carolina is one of the hardest hit states. The report estimates that 238,000 people had lost coverage through May and that one-in-five adults under age 65 in our state was uninsured. This constitutes an increase of 24% in the number of uninsured adult North Carolinians since 2018.

Needless to say, at a time of profound health crisis, the numbers amount to dreadful news and point out, yet again, the folly of a system that links health insurance coverage to employment. As the report authors note:

“Without comprehensive health insurance, many… families will be forced to choose between paying for essential medical care out of pocket and meeting other basic needs”

Meanwhile, state legislative leaders have already wrapped up the 2020 legislative session without taking any action on the single easiest, least expensive and most effective tool at our disposal to cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured adults in our state — many of them still working: Medicaid expansion.

Click here to read the full report.

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