Another Sad Paradox of the Pandemic: Millions of Americans Lose Health Insurance

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Facing the coronavirus pandemic in a country with one of the most unequal and aggressive health systems in the world is simply a checkmate.

That’s what more than 5 million American workers who lost their health insurance in the spring had to face, The New York Times explained, a number “higher than those in any full year of insurance losses.”

Unlike many of the world’s most stable countries, where the government guarantees health care as a right of its citizens, private sector companies largely monopolize the U.S. health care system.

This allows many citizens in the country to access health care only if their employer provides it. And if their employers have to close down because of a health care crisis, Americans are left without a source of income or medical protection.

According to a study by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families USA, the estimated increase in uninsured workers between February and May was almost 40 percent greater than the previous highest increase, which occurred during the 2008 and 2009 recession, when 3.9 million adults lost insurance, the Times continued.

“We knew these numbers would be big,” said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and wrote the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”

Although the final results cannot be made public until mid or late 2021, when the federal government publishes the 2020 health insurance estimates, the analyses leave no doubt about the number of people who do not have the means to protect themselves.

“Four of every five people who have lost employer-provided health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for free coverage through expanded Medicaid programs or government-subsidized private insurance through the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation,” the Times adds.

“But experts say that insuring the recently unemployed is a difficult challenge. Many people cannot afford premiums for coverage through either the health care law or the program known as COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Others might not know they are eligible for Medicaid.”

For its part, and as explained by The Los Angeles Times, the government continues to do nothing about it.

While in 2013 64 percent of health care spending was paid for by the government, and funded through programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Veterans’ Health Administration, a 2017 survey of health care systems in 11 developed countries found that the U.S. health care system is the most expensive and the worst performer in terms of access to health care, efficiency and equity.

Once the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking havoc on the country, the cracks in the health care system only got worse.

Silence and lack of solutions from the government have made unprotected communities the ones most impacted by the virus, and organizations at the national level have declared obstacles when it comes to communicating to citizens their options.

“People are really struggling, but there is virtually no communication,” said Jodi Ray, project director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, which works to expand health coverage in the state, to The  Los Angeles Times.

“There is a desperate need for strong, consistent consumer information,” said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of Every Texan, a longtime advocate for strengthening the state’s safety net.

The Assn. for Community Affiliated Plans, a trade group representing health insurers, was so concerned about inaction by the Trump administration that it launched its own advertising campaign last month to direct people to online marketplaces.

“Tens of millions of people have lost employer-based coverage, but federal agencies aren’t helping to lead people to the best resources available: the state and federal insurance marketplaces,” said Margaret A. Murray, the group’s chief executive.