Exposing 'Folly of Tying Health Coverage to Jobs,' New Study Estimates 7.3 Million More Uninsured in US by June

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    With a total of 7.3 million newly uninsured American by this summer, the new research—titled “Intersecting U.S. Epidemics: COVID-19 and Lack of Health Insurance”—reveals the devastating consequences of a health system so heavily reliant on employer-based insurance, especially in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency like the current outbreak.

    “Millions of Americans are newly vulnerable to financial catastrophe, as we face an epidemic of life-threatening illness,” said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a primary care doctor, distinguished professor at Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “The COVID-19 epidemic highlights the folly of tying health coverage to jobs. Our health care system saddles people with medical bills when they’re least able to afford them because they’ve been laid off or are too sick to work. Health insurance in the U.S. is like an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

    The study was published in The Annals of Internal Medicine,the official journal of the American College of Physicians, the largest U.S. medical specialty society in the U.S. with 159,000 members. Woolhandler and her co-author Dr. David Himmelstein, an internist and distinguished professor at CUNY’s Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, looked at state-by-state unemployment data to determine estimates about the number of people now out of work who relied on their employer for insurance. According to their report:

    We estimated the likely effects of current job losses on the number of uninsured persons by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2019 Current Population Survey on health insurance coverage rates among persons who lost or left a job. The uninsurance rate among unemployed persons who had lost or left a job was 26.3% versus 10.7% among those with jobs. Applying the 15.6–percentage point difference to the 9.955 million who filed new unemployment claims last week, we estimate that 1.553 million newly unemployed persons will lose health coverage. This figure excludes family members who will become uninsured because a breadwinner lost coverage and self-employed persons who may lose coverage because their businesses were shuttered, but are ineligible for unemployment benefits. If, as the Federal Reserve economist projects, an additional 47.05 million people become unemployed, 7.3 million workers (along with several million family members) are likely to join the ranks of the U.S. uninsured population.

    Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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