Waverly Hills! That's where I want to be! (Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville, Kentucky)

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic recession have resulted in record unemployment, widespread economic disruption followed by the biggest stimulus bill ever passed, and a serious setback to Donald Trump's ability to distract Americans with stupid bullshit. The recession has also left about 5.4 million Americans without health insurance after losing their jobs, according to a new study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan healthcare consumer group Families USA. Between February and May, more Americans lost their health coverage than have ever become uninsured in a single year, ever.

The previous highest increase in the uninsured came during the 2008-2009 recession, when 3.9 million adults lost coverage. This year's insurance losses are already 40 percent higher. And unlike during the Great Recession, folks aren't just facing the usual horrors and uncertainty of being uninsured — the nation is also in the middle of a pandemic that's sending people to the ICU for weeks. And to top it all off, Trump is pushing for the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which would lead to millions more Americans losing access to healthcare. But don't worry, he'll replace it with something much better, no you can't see it, it's a surprise!

Guess it's time for some idiot on "Fox & Friends" to say none of this is a problem, since if you're really sick you can always go to an emergency room for treatment and they can't turn you away.

The Families USA report notes that the full toll of coverage loss won't be available until sometime in 2021, when the feds publish complete stats for 2020. But the current report is aimed at giving lawmakers a handle on the size of the problem as they consider a new stimulus bill. Or rather, as one party tries to help Americans in distress while the other frets about how long we should sentence people who spray-paint RACIST FUCK on a Robert E. Lee statue; how best to limit liability for employers who let workers get a deadly virus; or how best to work with the White House to undermine the nation's public health leaders.

The New York Times points out that other nonprofits have come up with different estimates of the number of Americans to lose coverage, and some estimates are even more dire because they're using slightly different metrics:

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 27 million Americans have lost coverage in the pandemic; that study took into account family members of the insured. Another analysis, published Monday by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, projected that by the end of 2020, 10.1 million people will no longer have employer-sponsored health insurance or coverage that was tied to a job they lost because of the pandemic.

27 million! That's actually more than the projected 25 million that could have lost care under one of the 2017 GOP plans to eliminate the ACA. And all of this is coming in an election year when healthcare was already expected to be a top issue, even before the pandemic started making painfully clear how thoroughly fucked our healthcare "system" is.

Now, on paper at least, roughly 80 percent of Americans who lost jobs due to the shutdown should qualify for an individual plan on the exchanges set up under the ACA, or for free coverage if they live in a state that expanded Medicaid. But life is a lot messier than paper, and many of the newly unemployed may have difficulty making the premiums for an ACA plan, or for COBRA, the pricey temporary continuation of former employers' health plans. And plenty of people may not even realize they qualify for Medicaid.

To make matters worse, the Times reminds us,

The Trump administration has imposed sharp cuts on the funding for outreach programs that assist people in signing up for coverage under the health law. And while House Democrats have passed legislation intended to help people to keep their health insurance, the bill is stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Rather than expand access to subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Trump has promised to directly reimburse hospitals for the care of coronavirus patients who have lost their insurance. But there is little evidence that has begun.

Trump made a promise he doesn't appear to have followed through on? The deuce you say!

The Families USA study found that just five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York, and North Carolina — accounted for 46 percent of the coverage losses nationally. In eight states, over 20 percent of adults have no coverage; the worst of the bunch is Texas, with 29 percent. Hey, everything's bigger there, including the terrifying fact that in such a big state, three out of 10 adults lack insurance. And seven of those states are "also among the 15 states with the country's highest spike in new COVID-19 cases during the week ending on July 12."

And here's a fun fact:

In the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 23 percent of laid-off workers became uninsured; the percentage was nearly double that — 43 percent — in the 13 states that did not expand Medicaid, which include Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

Hooray for fiscal responsibility! Bummer for those people, but just think of all the money red states will save, since those folks just won't have any medical bills. And if people without insurance start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can bet they'll put off seeking medical care until they're in the worst shape possible. That can't possibly have any negative results beyond making their own treatment more difficult and expensive, plus their staying in the community spreading the virus to more people. But some may die a lot quicker, so that's something to consider when you're adding it all up.

Democrats have been pushing for the federal government to do more to help people who have lost their coverage, like the part of the House stimulus bill that would provide aid to help people pay for COBRA, or to cover a larger portion of Medicaid as an incentive for states to expand the program. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), said in an email to the Times,

Taking steps like these to help people get access to health care during a pandemic shouldn't be controversial, it should be common sense, and we should be doing it right now instead of waiting for things to get even worse.

But that would just mean more people falling prey to socialism! Besides, maybe the virus will just go away.

[NYT / Families USA]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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