America’s uninsured population has seen a remarkable spike since the onset of COVID-19. Amidst all of the stress of the pandemic, it is fortunate that the government has covered virus testing and treatment for uninsured individuals.
Let’s dive into the facts about the dip in American insurance coverage, and the subsequent call for a healthcare reform. We will discuss what changes President Biden has already initiated within the healthcare system, and his plans to make insurance more widely available. Finally, we will mention what options are currently accessible to individuals who are uninsured.
Since the emergence of the Coronavirus and corresponding economic crisis, there are about 31 million uninsured individuals in the United States.
The Commonwealth Fund suggests that as many as 7.7 million workers lost jobs as of June 2020 due to the pandemic-induced recession. Those workers’ benefits covered around 6.9 million dependents, meaning that about 14.6 million individuals have potentially lost their insurance through the pandemic.
Besides job loss, here are the related complications also causing uninsured populations to rise:
· Employers will attempt to reduce costs by reducing coverage and increasing employee premiums; therefore, more employees will find themselves unable to afford basic employer health insurance.
· Cost of caring for the uninsured will shift to AHCs, government and private insurers, increasing healthcare costs and ensuring a vicious cycle, according to the NCBI
Due to the cyclical nature of insurance levels, the lack of coverage will likely become more critical in the coming years. The gap between what is affordable and what is available will only widen unless the healthcare system adapts.
Individuals and employers may foresee these complications and vote for a change in the healthcare system.[i] ¾ of Democrats and 2/3 Republicans hold the view that people should have the option to get similar coverage to that of their employers through government-regulated and subsidized-healthcare plans, at a similar cost.
Some individuals would prefer to strike down the mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance. Some believe Medicaid should be repealed, while others see the benefits of government-subsidized insurance options and would vote for its expansion.
Changes are inevitable, regardless of which new plan is put into place. The current healthcare system is not fully functional in our new reality. The Supreme Court is expected to begin reviewing the healthcare system and making nation-changing decisions within months.[ii]
To reduce the number of uninsured individuals, federal and state policymakers could potentially:
· Improve outreach efforts to notify people who have lost coverage that they may be eligible for subsidized Marketplace coverage or Medicaid
· Simplify documentation requirements for government health insurance
· Design another subsidized insurance option for those states that have not yet expanded Medicaid eligibility, addressing those individuals higher on the income scale who are also uninsured[iii]
President Joe Biden recently ordered that government health insurance markets reopen for a special signup window (Feb 15-May 15, 2021). Americans who have lost insurance can enroll in Medicaid or apply for subsidized health insurance.
President Biden plans to restore the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid to the way it was before the Trump administration, and has revealed his intentions for the future of the American healthcare system. He plans to:
· Examine a policy that allows states to impose work requirements as a condition for low-income people to enroll in Medicaid health insurance
· Permit uninsured Americans to buy into an insurance program that provides healthcare benefits to federal employees and members of Congress, with people paying on a sliding scale based on income
· Eliminate copayment for physicals, vaccinations, vision and hearing screenings, and preventative dental checkups for children of all income levels[iv]
President Biden states that he intends to return to Barack Obama’s notion of coverage for all, which is certainly encouraging news for the uninsured.[v] Ideally, the pandemic will only improve our healthcare system long-term with permanent improvements to telemedicine, HIPAA compliant texting, and insurance coverage.
If you are uninsured right now, don’t wait – start looking into your options. Find out if you have access to employer-based coverage through a family member’s plan, and check your Medicaid eligibility, even if you don’t think you qualify. You might also consider the Affordable Care Act marketplaces or COBRA.
If you have found yourself suddenly uninsured, remember – you’re not alone, and changes are on the horizon.