News Release

New Study: 7.3 Million Likely to Lose Health Coverage by June 30

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., M.P.H steffie_woolhandler at hms.harvard.edu
DAVID U. HIMMELSTEIN, M.D. dhimmels at hunter.cuny.edu
Clare Fauke, Physicians for a National Health Program, clare at pnhp.org
    In a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers estimate that layoffs triggered by the COVID-19 epidemic have already caused more than 1.5 million American workers to lose health insurance, with 5.7 million more likely to become uninsured by June 30, for a total of 7.3 million newly uninsured.

    The study’s authors urge states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so immediately. However, because states are limited in their financial abilities to provide coverage, the authors recommend that the federal government authorize Medicare coverage for anyone eligible for unemployment benefits, and eventually implement universal Medicare for All.

    “Millions of Americans are newly vulnerable to financial catastrophe, as we face an epidemic of life-threatening illness,” said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a primary care doctor, distinguished professor at Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “The COVID-19 epidemic highlights the folly of tying health coverage to jobs. Our health care system saddles people with medical bills when they’re least able to afford them because they’ve been laid off or are too sick to work. Health insurance in the U.S. is like an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

    “The federal government must step up in this crisis,” added study co-author Dr. David Himmelstein, an internist and distinguished professor at CUNY’s Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “The states can’t do it because tax revenues are plunging, and they’re required to balance their budgets. Congress and the President have provided free testing for coronavirus, but no new coverage for those who need treatment. In this emergency, Congress should make all of the uninsured automatically eligible for Medicare.”