Forty-one percent of adults reported job disruption and losing job-based health insurance coverage, according to the results of a recent survey.

“In the spring, there was an expectation that with so many people losing their jobs, many would also lose their health insurance,” says lead author Sara R. Collins, PhD, vice president of healthcare coverage and access at The Commonwealth Fund.

The survey offered some early evidence that this was not happening at the catastrophic levels people had feared. “The recession was different than prior turndowns in that it disproportionately affected sectors of the economy where people are less likely to get health plans through their jobs,” Collins says. Jobs in the food and beverage, hotel, and retail industries hit particularly hard. Some key findings:

  • Fifty-nine percent of adults who said their partner or spouse lost his or her job or had been furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic reported no one received health insurance coverage through that job. Most of this group had been uninsured before the pandemic.
  • About one-quarter of respondents reported they received coverage through a job that was not affected by the pandemic, including a partner or spouse’s job.
  • More than one-third of respondents received coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, or a plan purchased through the individual market.

“Many people who had coverage through their jobs were furloughed and still receiving benefits,” Collins notes.

Others received coverage through other employers. Still, one in five adults reported they and/or a spouse or partner were now uninsured. “If the pandemic is not brought under control and the recession continues at its current severity, is it is quite possible that job losses will rise in industries where more people have employer benefits,” Collins cautions.

Patient access is in a unique position to help. “Our teams are seeing more and more individuals losing their coverage and not being able to pay their bills,” reports Perla Pace, manager of patient access services at San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare.

Staff conduct financial screenings at the time of service and assist patients with applying for public assistance programs. “Our teams closely monitored exceptions and special rules instituted by our state in order to provide up-to-date resources,” Pace reports.

For example, in California, the healthcare exchange modified the enrollment period and waiting periods for eligibility. “Additionally, the DHCS has provided rules to protect Medi-Cal [California’s Medicaid program] recipients pending annual or quarterly renewals to be granted extensions,” Pace notes.

COBRA insurance coverage is another option for many. “Although the out-of-pocket costs can be high, they are relatively accessible when compared to the uninsured costs for an emergency healthcare service,” Pace offers.