Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Medicare for All supporters hold signs

A new analysis estimates that 3.5 million workers lost their health insurance in the last two weeks because of their insurance being tied to employment. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In Nation Without Medicare for All, 3.5 Million Workers May Have Lost Employer-Provided Insurance Over Last Two Weeks

"The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the cruelty of tying health insurance coverage to employment."

Andrea Germanos

A new analysis estimates that 3.5 million U.S. workers may have lost their job-tied health insurance in just the last two weeks.

"The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the cruelty of tying health insurance coverage to employment," wrote Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), on Twitter Thursday.

The analysis from Zipperer and EPI director of research Josh Bivens came the same day data from the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims last week—more than double the previous record of 3.28 million claims filed the week before—as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter workers.

The analysis also provides fresh evidence for Medicare for All advocates' longstanding argument that the current healthcare system, in which roughly half of Americans rely on their employer for healthcare coverage, must be abandoned in favor of a system that guarantees coverage to everyone regardless of employment.

"It is especially terrifying for workers to lose their health insurance as a result of, and during, an ongoing pandemic," wrote Zipperer and Bivens.

While the 3.5 million estimated figure of newly-uninsured people is bleak, the number may be even higher, the analysis finds:

Using new UI claims by industry from the state of Washington—the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States—we are able to provide a very rough estimate of the number of workers at high risk of losing health insurance they had through their own employer due to coronavirus-related layoffs (or furloughs or hours reductions). We can’t say exactly how many people will lose insurance coverage altogether for several reasons. For example, some workers who lose EPHI due to layoffs or hours reductions that trigger UI claims may be able to obtain coverage through health care exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or through Medicaid. Some of this group may also be able to obtain continuing coverage through COBRA, paying out of pocket the full cost of their EPHI coverage. Some workers may be able to obtain coverage through other family members, or if only experiencing a temporary furlough or hours reduction, their employers might continue to pay for coverage. On the other hand, our calculations might understate the loss of health insurance coverage because they do not account for family members who are no longer covered because of the policyholder’s layoff. And because not all layoffs result in UI claims, we will underestimate the actual magnitude of job losses.

"Unemployment insurance claims for the last two weeks are mind-blowing," EPI policy director Heidi Shierholz wrote in a Twitter thread Thursday in which she called the number of newly-uninsured "the cherry-from-hell on top."

The pandemic has also helped highlight the differences in healthcare proposals put forth by Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden has reaffirmed his opposition to Medicare for All, even as new polling shows record high for such a system. 

Sanders, who's made Medicare for All a central component of his campaign, has said the need the current pandemic only serves to underscore his policy proposal.

In a Thursday tweet, Sanders said, "We need Medicare for All so that your health insurance is not tied to your job."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Democrats, Progressive Groups Push DOJ to Publish Database of 'Corporate Lawbreaking'

"The Corporate Crime Database Act will bring transparency to the corporate crime crisis so that the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies can better reckon with this greed-driven menace," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to 'Rein Them In'

"Today's record corporate profits mirror what we have been hearing on earnings call after earnings call: Corporations are gleefully reporting that their strategy to burden families with unnecessary price hikes is working."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': PFAS Firefighting Foam Spills at Notorious Red Hill Naval Facility in Hawaii

While officials said there is no evidence that drinking water was contaminated, the incident generated further local frustration with the closing fuel storage complex.

Jessica Corbett ·


House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans

"Now let's get it through the Senate," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who led the fight to add seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that failed to provide any to railroad workers.

Kenny Stancil ·


DeSantis-Backed Education Purge Begins After School Board Takeovers in Florida

"The new playbook of total ideological control is in full swing," said one free expression advocate.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo