Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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Job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic are the highest since the Great Depression. A year and a half later, most Americans who lost their health insurance along with their job remain uninsured. We surveyed 1,250 Americans who remain unemployed after being laid off during the pandemic and found four out of five don’t have insurance coverage.
Fifty-six percent of Americans who remain unemployed since being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic lost their health insurance along with their job.
Twenty-three percent of workers did not have employer-provided health insurance prior to losing their jobs. Even before the pandemic, small businesses struggled to absorb the cost of providing health insurance to their employees, says health insurance advisor and nursing consultant Tammy Burns.
“Companies have cut costs by going with high-deductible plans and sharing less of the cost towards the insurance,” Burns says. “This makes it cheaper for employees to get their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. At larger companies, health care costs are growing faster than worker wages, so a large amount of an employee’s check goes to insurance. Therefore, many workers opt out because they can’t afford it.”
Of the 56% of unemployed Americans who lost their health insurance along with their job, 81% are still uninsured.
This lack of coverage is impacting certain groups more than others. There are also several contributing factors to why the number of unemployed Americans without health insurance remains high.
When broken down by gender, men are more likely than women to have lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs at 66% and 44%, respectively. However, women are twice as likely as men to have not had health insurance in the first place at 31% and 16%, respectively.
Currently, men are slightly more likely to still be uninsured. Eighty-four percent of male survey respondents do not currently have health insurance, compared to 75% of women.
Our survey also found that certain age groups are more likely than others to still be uninsured after a pandemic-related job loss.
Eighty-six percent of individuals 35 to 44, and 84% of both 25 to 34 year-olds and 45 to 54 year-olds remain without health insurance after being laid off. Comparatively, 67% of unemployed individuals 18 to 24, and 58% of those older than 55 are still uninsured.
Americans 25 to 44 are also the age group most likely to have lost their health insurance when they were let go from their jobs (66%).
The high cost of individual insurance is the number one reason Americans still unemployed from the pandemic remain uninsured.
Sixty-seven percent of those uninsured can’t afford private health insurance. Eleven percent of people who still lack health insurance say they did not qualify for government-funded health insurance, despite the fact that a number of states expanded access to Medicaid during the pandemic.
A lack of understanding about how the ACA marketplace works may also play a role in why uninsured Americans are not pursuing all possible avenues to get health insurance.
“People are scared of the ACA because it involves a lot of personal information, like taxes,” Burns says. “I have found that many people are afraid it is ‘the government being in my business.’ There is a lack of knowledge about how helpful and affordable the ACA is now. There needs to be better education about this program.”
The survey also found 20% of unemployed Americans who are uninsured choose to forgo health insurance altogether.
This is particularly true for men, 22% of whom are choosing not to have health insurance, compared to 15% of women.
Younger adults are also more likely than older Americans to opt out of health insurance if they are unemployed. Twenty-five percent of 25 to 34 year-olds, and 20% of 25 to 34 year-olds choose not to have health insurance.
A lack of insurance has serious short- and long-term implications for individuals’ health and well-being. The biggest impact: 58% of uninsured individuals are no longer getting routine care, which could hinder their ability to identify more serious underlying issues.
Other impacts include no longer taking doctor-prescribed medication (56%); delaying planned medical procedures (46%); not seeking treatment for chronic issues (44%), and no longer receiving mental health treatment (41%).
Our survey also found that those at greater risk for medical issues, based on age, are the most likely to be skipping their routine check-ups. Three-fourths of uninsured individuals over the age of 55 (76%) say they are not going for regular doctor visits because of their lack of insurance, the highest percentage of any age group.
Meanwhile, 64% of individuals 35 to 44 are not taking doctor-prescribed medication, which can have both short- and long-term negative effects.
Given that so many individuals are already hard-pressed to afford health insurance, it’s not surprising that many of them will also be in a dangerous place financially if there is a medical emergency.
Fifty-nine percent of uninsured people are “very likely” to be financially devastated by a medical emergency, while another quarter are “somewhat likely” to face financial ruin in the event of a medical emergency.
All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by AffordableHealthInsurance.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 adult Americans who are currently unemployed after being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic were surveyed. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question. This survey was conducted on August 16, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Julia Morrissey at [email protected]