16.2 million workers have likely lost employer-provided health insurance since the coronavirus shock began

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16.2 million workers have likely lost employer-provided health insurance since the coronavirus shock began

Since the economic fallout of the coronavirus shock began in early March, the number of workers laid-off or furloughed—as measured by new claims for unemployment insurance (UI)—has skyrocketed. We have used data from states that track UI claims by industry to get a rough estimate of how many workers are at high risk of losing their employer-provided health insurance (EPHI) over this as well.

The methodology is described in this blog post, and the underlying UI data (which has begun to include more and more states tracking UI claims by industry) can be found here. Table 1 below shows UI claims by industry across states that collect this data, and also shows employer-provided health insurance (EPHI) coverage rates in those industries in 2018. As of May 9, more than 35 million workers had been laid off or furloughed since mid-March, as measured by total initial UI claims during that period. We find that this translates into likely EPHI losses of 16.2 million.

Because the United States is unique among rich countries in tying health insurance benefits to employment, many of the newly unemployed will suddenly face prohibitively costly insurance options. A comprehensive policy solution would be to extend Medicare and Medicaid to all those suffering job losses during the pandemic period, with the federal government funding this expansion. It has been proposed that the federal government pay for all of COBRA coverage so that workers who are laid off or furloughed may continue their employer-provided coverage. While this policy proposal will help many workers continue coverage, in some states it will not help workers from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, who are not eligible for COBRA.

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.

New UI claims and employer-provided health insurance losses between March 15 and May 9, by industry

Industry Total job losses (UI initial claims) Share of workers with EPHI EPHI job losses Total job losses as a share of industry employment
Accommodation and Food Services 7,202,686 23.9% 1,718,609 49.8%
Admin. and Support, Waste Mgmt. and Remediation Services 3,053,035 39.1% 1,194,638 32.0%
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 108,900 29.4% 31,986 7.8%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 1,290,411 37.4% 482,869 44.2%
Construction 1,944,532 44.5% 864,683 24.8%
Educational Services 941,386 61.6% 579,942 8.2%
Finance and Insurance 269,356 70.5% 189,895 4.4%
Health Care and Social Assistance 4,397,920 56.8% 2,497,604 19.7%
Information 627,791 61.9% 388,408 20.8%
Management of Companies and Enterprises 272,555 63.6% 173,394 11.2%
Manufacturing 3,692,080 69.3% 2,559,501 28.5%
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction 162,985 74.7% 121,677 24.0%
Other Services (except Public Administration) 1,888,972 33.3% 629,972 40.8%
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 1,338,212 61.0% 816,355 13.8%
Public Administration 317,891 70.4% 223,885 4.1%
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 515,675 46.5% 239,879 21.9%
Retail Trade 4,635,212 40.8% 1,890,489 29.6%
Transportation and Warehousing 1,406,651 58.5% 822,525 22.1%
Utilities 18,115 77.1% 13,968 2.3%
Wholesale Trade 1,175,972 61.5% 722,866 19.8%
All industries 35,260,336 45.8% 16,163,146 23.8%

We additionally allocate EPHI losses across states, taking account of each states’ industry mix (again, the methodology for this calculation can be found here). The map below shows these losses allocated across states.

New UI claims and employer-provided health insurance losses between March 15 and May 9, by state

State Total job losses (UI initial claims) EPHI job losses Total job losses as a share of industry employment
Alabama 472,442 223,136 23.8%
Alaska 87,817 40,124 26.0%
Arizona 549,103 244,601 19.1%
Arkansas 203,685 97,068 17.0%
California 4,637,329 2,107,458 26.3%
Colorado 411,938 185,051 15.0%
Connecticut 607,132 289,198 36.9%
Delaware 90,780 40,043 20.4%
Washington D.C. 86,840 36,555 11.4%
Florida 1,989,639 867,110 22.7%
Georgia 1,838,980 855,110 41.0%
Hawaii 221,758 88,807 34.6%
Idaho 134,803 60,518 17.7%
Illinois 1,023,022 472,201 17.2%
Indiana 710,040 341,896 23.1%
Iowa 307,517 146,655 19.8%
Kansas 241,248 114,727 17.5%
Kentucky 742,732 351,874 39.5%
Louisiana 637,213 287,601 33.6%
Maine 155,446 69,511 24.7%
Maryland 558,134 250,517 20.8%
Massachusetts 965,303 440,994 26.6%
Michigan 1,600,707 755,583 36.8%
Minnesota 636,930 298,055 21.9%
Mississippi 244,508 113,934 21.7%
Missouri 561,354 259,994 20.1%
Montana 103,585 44,108 21.8%
Nebraska 120,452 56,211 12.2%
Nevada 436,798 167,217 31.2%
New Hampshire 182,613 82,568 27.4%
New Jersey 1,174,774 537,404 29.4%
New Mexico 161,888 71,564 19.5%
New York 2,097,570 960,193 22.2%
North Carolina 1,033,463 475,823 23.0%
North Dakota 70,068 33,152 16.6%
Ohio 1,171,569 546,857 21.5%
Oklahoma 419,846 195,948 26.1%
Oregon 361,287 164,324 18.5%
Pennsylvania 1,882,608 874,462 31.8%
Puerto Rico 254,682 115,734 29.5%
Rhode Island 170,736 74,891 35.1%
South Carolina 495,007 224,570 23.3%
South Dakota 43,741 20,299 10.0%
Tennessee 506,843 233,785 16.8%
Texas 2,045,123 943,202 16.3%
Utah 153,291 70,565 10.1%
Vermont 62,948 28,618 20.3%
Virginia 679,006 307,992 17.4%
Virgin Islands 649 256 1.9%
Washington 1,185,188 547,459 33.9%
West Virginia 143,139 66,788 21.2%
Wisconsin 548,977 263,899 19.0%
Wyoming 38,085 16,934 13.7%

Note: EPHI losses are estimated unemployment insurance (UI) claims associated with employer-provided health insurance loss.





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