United States Seeking Public and Private Solutions to Health Insurance Losses Due to Layoffs

Job Loss During the Pandemic

Source: Neilson Marketing Services | Published on March 31, 2020

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Last week, over 3 million people filed for federal unemployment insurance – the most on record. The present pandemic has forced mass social distancing and the temporary closure of countless businesses. Millions of people are now being laid off of these jobs, or put on furlough until the crisis has ended. What makes the situation that much more concerning is that most, or at least many, people have their health insurance through their employers. A loss of a job is usually a loss of health coverage. In the midst of a viral pandemic, it is obvious why this is not only a private, but a public concern.

Generous Employers

It is easy to blame employers for denying coverage to their employees at such a critical time, but there is little else in such a devastating economic situation. Some employers are trying to keep their workers on the books, even if they cannot afford to pay them at the time. One California resort casino has decided to pay for all health insurance costs, even for laid-off employees.

Because a positive coronavirus test can mean an emergency room visit, and perhaps weeks of intensive care, such a decision is a godsend for terminated employees. Doubtless many more will at least attempt the same thing, but most businesses are not in a position to pay for health benefits with no revenue coming in.

State Solutions

Solutions to the health insurance issue are being tried out on a governmental level as well. Maine has passed an order requiring health insurance providers to continue covering furloughed or laid-off employees. If an employer cannot keep a worker on payroll but desires to provide continued health coverage, the insurance company cannot deny such coverage. This will remain in effect until the state of Maine is no longer under a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Other states have reopened enrollment for their state-sponsored healthcare plans, and pressure is mounting on the federal government to allow enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marketplace immediately to provide coverage in response to the pandemic.

The Uncertain Future

Many are hailing these as decisive, important decisions, but it remains to be seen how long such plans will remain viable. Insurance providers have very carefully balanced projections based on premiums and expected coverage. All of that is nearly obsolete at this point in the spread of the virus, but throwing further wrenches into the situation could make it more difficult. The situation is unprecedented, so the solutions may seem haphazard or heroic, but it is impossible to tell in the moment. Until the virus is cured, or dissipates on its own, these sorts of solutions will remain the only option for many.