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REPORT: 43 million could lose employer health insurance amid pandemic

By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service

A new report finds 43 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health coverage under worst-case-scenario unemployment projections, as the country slides deeper into a potential recession.

The findings from the Urban Institute highlight the crippling effect the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have on families’ access to health care. Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at Families USA, said while some individuals may qualify for Medicaid, millions of those likely to become uninsured will face tough choices.

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“For people that don’t have health insurance and then have to go to the emergency room or go to the hospital, they are at grave risk financially, but at the same time, they are at grave risk physically,” Fishman said. “And not just them, but their neighbors and their communities are at risk.”

Even before the pandemic, Tennessee had one of the largest uninsured populations in the nation. And in 2019, the number of residents without health insurance climbed to its highest level in 6 years, according to data from the University of Tennessee.

Fishman said states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will see a higher number of uninsured residents as COVID-19 continues to paralyze the economy.

“This is not a time to be placing administrative barriers in the way of people accessing health insurance and ultimately accessing health care,” he said.

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An estimated 160 million people nationwide under age 65 had health insurance through their employer just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then, 30 million workers filed for unemployment during March and April, according to federal data.

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