Health Insurance: How the Pandemic Affected Your Coverage

Getting good health insurance coverage is critical even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Most working-age adults depend on their employers for their medical insurance. It is one of the enticing benefits employers offer to bring in good talent. The coverage often extends to employees’ family members. But, because of the pandemic, most people lost their jobs. As a result, they also lost their insurance coverage. Despite what happened, some things triggered different paths to getting insurance coverage.

Health Insurance: How the Pandemic Affected Your Coverage
An insurance agent explaining the insurance policy to the client

Health Insurance Coverage Crisis

The effects of the pandemic persist in the United States and the rest of the world. Consequently, many are losing their insurance coverage. This affects the health care delivery system in a negative way. It also affects the longevity of people with chronic illnesses. Maintenance medications are expensive for some people. They need financial help with treatments and procedures as well when they need them.

One of the most enticing employee benefits in small businesses is health insurance. A survey shows that 60 percent of these companies offered health insurance coverage before the pandemic. Almost 95 percent of these companies continued to do this until now. Some of these companies say that they are not sure if they could still afford to pay the premiums after two months. A mere 5 percent says that their insurers are giving them some relief by lowering premium costs.

At least 40 percent of the private labor force in the U.S. is on the payroll of small businesses.

These companies have less than 500 workers. The pandemic prompted almost half of these small companies to stop or pause operations. In addition, at least 60 percent of the U.S. working population depends on employer-sponsored health insurance.

Different Employers Have Different Views

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a vast majority of people suffered from unemployment. Yet, not all of them lost their insurance coverage. The data shows that some employers may have made some layoffs. But, they still found some way to maintain the health insurance coverage of their employees.

Enrollment Opportunities

The loss of employer-based health insurance coverage boosted enrollment in individual health coverage or Medicaid. Enrollment in the program rose by about 4.3 million during February-July 2020, according to administrative data for Medicaid. The increase was also pushed by the MOE (maintenance of eligibility). The MOE relates to a 6.2 percent increase in the federal match rate. The FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) prevents states from removing Medicaid beneficiaries. They cannot do this if they accept more federal funding.

Health Insurance: How the Pandemic Affected Your Coverage
A woman signing a health insurance policy

The Good News

Other factors, like population growth and aging, also contribute to the drop in health insurance coverage. However, qualifications for Medicaid and individual market coverage may be counteracting the lost insurance from employers. There are logical explanations as to why this is happening.

Many furloughed employees may have retained their health coverage for a while. This allows them to have some help with medical expenses while staying at home. Many employed people, or their loved ones, have chronic ailments. Having health insurance will help them keep healthy and safe from the pandemic even if they do not have work.

A large number of uninsured people come with some relief. In the United States, health insurance coverage premiums fall whenever there is an economic downturn. Some employers are still doing their best to maintain coverage through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. These are security blankets for people who lost their coverage.

The Bad News

Some people may not have health insurance after losing their job to the pandemic because they have never been enrolled. Those who earn lower wages are not likely to have health insurance from their employer. Furthermore, some laid-off employees may have chosen to have classified group health insurance coverage. This type of coverage is from the employees’ own pockets. Some treatments and medications cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars each month. Spending on their health insurance solely from their own pockets is an expensive task.

More people are reporting permanent unemployment. This suggests more health insurance coverage losses. Many people wait, defenseless during this pandemic if the number of uninsured people remains at a plateau. These people will still face huge health risks and financial troubles even with government help to protect them from COVID-19.

The Bottom Line

Increased unemployment during the pandemic has made the path to maintaining good health challenging. Many people depend on their employers for health insurance coverage. That is why it is a heavy burden when they lost their jobs. They need health insurance to help them deal with their health issues. Thanks to Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and other such opportunities for health insurance, some of the unemployed are coping with their health care expenses while looking for opportunities to regain medical coverage.

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