Pandemic job loss means more than 14 million have lost employer-sponsored health insurance at the worst possible time

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The coronavirus-induced recession nationally has displaced 7.7 million workers who had employer-sponsored health insurance, a study released Wednesday shows. Conducted by the  Employee Benefit Research Institute, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Commonwealth Fund, the analysis also found that 6.9 million dependents were covered, bringing the potential number of people losing employer-sponsored insurance to more than 14 million.

“This study illustrates how the country’s predominantly job-based health insurance system leaves workers and their families at risk of losing coverage during a severe economic downturn,” Sara Collins, Commonwealth Fund vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking, said in a prepared statement.



“Unlike prior recessions, the reforms of the Affordable Care Act are a safety net for many who lose coverage. But the law is now at risk of repeal before the Supreme Court, just when Americans need it most.”

Not all employees who lost jobs are uninsured, the report noted. If a job loss was temporary, an employer could continue to provide health insurance coverage, the report said. If a temporary job loss becomes permanent, an employee could enroll on another family member’s plan, continue coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) or enroll in a plan on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange. Dependents could also be enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is designed for children who aren’t poor enough to qualify for the traditional Medicaid program.



The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced last week that more than 4 million new Medicaid and CHIP enrollments occurred between February and June — a nearly 5.7 percent increase since the public-health emergency began in March. Enrollment in Floria’s Medicaid program also has grown significantly, increasing from 3,764,038 in March to 4,287,874 in August, the latest available numbers show.

Manufacturing workers have been most impacted by losing jobs with employer-sponsored insurance. Manufacturing accounted for 10 percent of pre-pandemic employment, and 12 percent of unemployed workers in June had been employed by manufacturers. But because 66 percent of manufacturing jobs offered employer-sponsored insurance; the industry accounted for 18 percent of the loss of jobs with employer-sponsored insurance. Conversely, while the accommodations and food-service industries accounted for 20 percent of the unemployed workers in June, they accounted for 11 percent of the lost jobs with insurance coverage.

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