Job Loss Adds 5.4 Million to Ranks of the Uninsured


Families USA estimates that 1 in 7 adult Americans don't have health insurance.

Job losses between February and May have resulted in 5.4 million laid-off workers becoming uninsured, according to an estimate by Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.

The group says in a report that was released today (and reported on yesterday by the New York Times) the increase in the number of uninsured adults is higher than any annual increase ever recorded and points to legislation passed by the House as a possible remedy. The legislation — called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act — would, among other changes, provide full premium subsidies for laid-off employees through COBRA, increase federal Medicaid funding, and create new Medicaid options for employer.

The organization says it arrived at the figure of 5.4 million, or 25%, out of 21.9 million workers who lost their jobs by using unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and then applying Urban Institute findings about the percentage of unemployed people who wind up without health insurance. Families USA estimates with the newsly uninsured, the total number of adult Americans under the age of 65 without health insuranced reached 30.8 million in May, a figure that works out to 16% of that population, or about 1 in 7.

Here is a list of the states with the largest number of newly uninsured adults because of job loss according to the Families USA report:

Number becoming uninsured because of job loss
New York
North Carolina

Factors that prevent workers from lacking health insurance after getting laid off include getting coverage through a family member or spouse, Medicaid coverage, and enrollment in an ACA plan.

In an April 2020 report, Urban Institute researchers found that Medicaid coverage was an important variable. In 2018, the proportion of unemployed adults without health insurance in states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid was double that of states that had (40% vs. 20%), according to the Urban Institute researchers, Bowen Garrett and Anuj Gangopadhyaya. In the April report, they calculated that if the unemployment rate were to reach 20%, 25 million American workers would lose employer-sponsored health insurance. Just under half — about 12 million — would gain Medicaid coverage, according to Garrett and Gangopadhyaya, and 6 million would get coverage through an ACA exchange or through some other form of insurance, leaving 7 million without insurance.

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