5.4 Million Americans Lost Their Health Insurance From Pandemic Layoffs, Report Says

As U.S. unemployment rates broke records during the earlier stretch of the new coronavirus pandemic, roughly 5.4 million adults lost health insurance coverage nationwide, a new report estimates.

The report was published by the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, a nonprofit health care advocacy organization. Its data accounted for individuals who lost coverage between February and May as a result of altered employment status. When U.S. virus outbreak began in March, policies implemented by leaders across the country mandated nonessential business closures in efforts to curtail transmission. In turn, unemployment claims soared and millions of adults who relied on their employer for health coverage were consequently left uninsured.

Families USA estimated that the increase in uninsured U.S. adults over the three-month period between February and May exceeded any annual increase reported previously. The number was almost 40 percent higher than annual insurance losses recorded throughout the 2008–2009 recession, when about 3.9 million adults became uninsured.

States hit hardest by the virus outbreak saw the most significant increases in uninsured residents, according to Families USA. The report said close to half of all 5.4 million people who lost coverage lived in New York, California, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

The report showed close to 690,000 people became uninsured across California due to job losses between February and May, while roughly 300,000 became uninsured for the same reason in New York. Insurance losses due to unemployment surpassed 600,000 in both Texas and Florida, and exceeded 250,000 in North Carolina. New York, California, Florida and Texas have confirmed the four highest incidences of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and some of the highest subsequent hospitalization numbers, in the U.S.

In Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina, coverage losses pushed statewide uninsured rates past 20 percent. Massachusetts, Hawaii, Michigan and Rhode Island reported the most substantial spikes in insurance losses between February and May, although the overall incidence of uninsured adults in those states remained relatively low compared with those reported in others.

Texas COVID-19
Healthcare workers are seen inside the COVID-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on July 2. A new report estimated more than 5 million U.S. adults lost health insurance coverage during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, with states hit hardest by the outbreak reporting the most significant increases in uninsured individuals. MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images

Families USA emphasized the need for federal legislation that works to "restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance" in its report, arguing that widespread coverage "improves health outcomes, limits financial insecurity and promotes economic recovery."

Some states, like New York, have taken steps to reduce financial burdens to individuals seeking medical care during the pandemic. While the federal government has passed relief packages to offset economic challenges incurred by individuals as well as businesses, it has not prioritized expanding access to health care coverage.

"It is shocking that federal lawmakers have not yet enacted COVID-19 legislation that helps protect comprehensive health insurance," said Stan Dorn, the director of Families USA's National Center for Coverage and Innovation, in comments to Newsweek. Dorn is the report's primary author.

"The House took important positive steps before adjourning, and now it's time for the Senate to answer the call. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike are getting sick, losing their jobs, and losing their health insurance," he continued, referencing the HEROES Act, which proposed relief funding for essential workers, including those in health care. "The problems cross party lines, and so the solutions demand bipartisan action."

Update July 15, 2020, 1 p.m. ET: This story was updated to include Dorn's comments.