Over 7 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Amid COVID-19


At least 1.5 million Americans have lost health insurance as COVID-19 rattles the nation, and over 7 million more people could suffer the loss in the coming months, according to a new study published in the  Annals of Internal Medicine

In the study, Hunter College Professors David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler predict that the millions of Americans filing for unemployment will lose their health insurance as a result — especially since the government’s $2 trillion bailout bill doesn’t include health coverage.

“The COVID-19 epidemic highlights the folly of tying health coverage to jobs. Our healthcare 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,” Woolhandler told Newsweek. “Health insurance in the U.S. is like an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

At least 450,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for coronavirus, and more than 16,000 people with the illness in the country have died, according to The New York Times. In addition to the rising death toll, COVID-19 has upended the economy, with 6.6 million people filing for unemployment in the first week of April — and millions have applied for unemployment insurance, ABC News reported. 

The authors noted that conservative states that opposed the expansion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) could be hit the hardest by insurance lost. 

With leaders unsure of when the crisis will end, Himmelstein and Woolhandler said the federal government must take immediate, adequate action. 

“We advocate for passage of an emergency measure authorizing Medicare coverage for all persons eligible for unemployment benefits,” the authors wrote. “A trickle of families facing the dual disaster of job loss and health insurance loss can remain under Washington’s radar. However, the current tsunami of job and coverage losses along with a heightened risk for severe illness demands action.”

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work

Intersecting U.S. Epidemics: COVID-19 and Lack of Health Insurance
Annals of Internal Medicine, 2020

Work By

David Himmelstein (Distinguished Professor at School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, Urban Public Health) | Profile 1
Steffie Woolhandler (Distinguished Professor at School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, Urban Public Health) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools

Hunter College