A new survey takes a look at health coverage during the COVID-19 recession, finding more people uninsured, with many furloughed workers holding onto employer coverage.
A survey of U.S. adults in late May asked whether they or their spouse or partner had lost a job or been furloughed since February because of COVID-19; whether either or both had health insurance through that job; what their current insurance status was; and what their views are on balancing health risks with opening the economy.
Sara Collins is vice president for health care coverage and access at The Commonwealth Fund, which conducted the study.
"21 million people in the United States were unemployed in May. Because more than half of U.S. adults get insurance through an employer or a family member's employer. A key concern is that many of the millions unemployed have also lost their health benefits along with their jobs."
The survey says 56% of people who reported employer-based coverage through an affected job were white, 23 percent were Hispanic, and 15 percent were Black.
The survey asked some 2,200 people whether they or their spouse or partner had lost a job or been furloughed since February, whether either or both of them had health insurance through that job and the status of their current insurance plan.
"So among people who said that they or their spouse or partner lost a job or was furloughed because of the pandemic, two out of five reported that they or their spouse or partner had health coverage through that affected job. Among people who reported coverage through an affected job, about one in five adults said that they or a spouse or partner were now uninsured. So more than half said that they or their spouse or partner were still on an employer health plan during furlough."
Collins says federal data on the pandemic’s impact on health insurance may not be available for some time.
Nearly 75% of survey respondents support an option for people with employer coverage to purchase health insurance on their own via government-regulated and -subsidized health plans offering coverage at a similar cost. Democrats expressed the strongest support (81%), while 65% of Republicans also held this view.
New York State Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents the 108th district, is also a licensed pharmacist. He says rate proposals to the state insurance department are indicating an 11% increase, likely due to the backlog of medical procedures that couldn't be done during COVID-19. McDonald foresees an increased utilization of preventative health care in the weeks and months to come.
"I think more people than ever before are going to be looking for a flu vaccine. I think there's going to be, once a COVID-19 vaccine is established, a huge onslaught of that. Vaccines traditionally are preventative health care, they're usually at no cost to the patient, but at some point, somebody has to pay for it. The insurance companies work it out but it's usually baked into the premium, which, for those who have health care premiums, you might expect to see an increase. For those who don't have them, who are on the Medicaid system, which is now probably 40% of our state, that won't recognize that at all."
The survey also found 85% of adults support mask-wearing requirements, while 81% are in favor of regular testing and contact tracing to help ensure a safe work environment, to keep themselves and their loved ones safe until there is a vaccine.
When asked which leaders they trust most to open the economy and keep people safe, 2 out of 5 people said they trust public health officials, while 25% said they trusted their respective governor.
You can read the complete survey HERE.