We estimate that 3.5 million workers were at high risk of losing their employer-provided health insurance in the past two weeks. Because the United States is unique among rich countries in tying health insurance benefits to employment—roughly half of all U.S. workers receive health insurance through their own employer’s provided coverage—many of the newly unemployed will suddenly face prohibitively costly insurance options. The linkage between specific jobs and the availability of health insurance is a prime source of inefficiency and inequity in the U.S. health system. It is especially terrifying for workers to lose their health insurance as a result of, and during, an ongoing pandemic.
Last week and this week saw a historically large number of workers filing initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits due to layoffs (or furloughs or hours reductions) connected to the economic impact of the coronavirus and associated “social distancing” measures. The 8.7