Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A sign alerts customers that a business in Queens, which has one of the highest infection rates of coronavirus in the nation, is closed on April 03, 2020 in New York City. Public Citizen on Tuesday called for Medicare to be open to all Americans who are uninsured due to job loss as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'We Can't Wait': Congress Urged to Open Medicare to Every Uninsured Laid-Off Worker

"Millions of workers and their families have been stripped of health insurance during a pandemic. Inaction is not an option."

Julia Conley

Thousands of Americans have joined government watchdog Public Citizen in calling on Congress to open the Medicare federal healthcare program to anyone who loses health coverage due to job loss amid the coronavirus pandemic, as an estimated 3.5 million workers have so far.

More than 6,500 people have already signed the group's petition urging lawmakers to open up Medicare to the unemployed as businesses across the country are forced to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. 

"With millions of people losing their jobs because of a pandemic, it's both crazy and immoral for them to be stripped of health insurance," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "If we had a Medicare for All system, this kind of problem wouldn't occur. But we can't wait to win Medicare for All. The solution to this immediate problem is to enroll all unemployed people in Medicare."

Last week, as unemployment numbers surged and millions lost their employer-based coverage, calls went out for the Medicare eligibility age to be "dropped to zero" so that anyone could enroll.

At least 10 million Americans filed jobless claims in the last two weeks of March. As Common Dreams reported last week, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that 3.5 of those people lost their health coverage as a result. In the coming months, the consulting firm Health Management Associates reported last week, 35 million Americans could lose their health coverage.

In recent days, centrist Democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden, the current frontrunner to be the party's presidential nominee, have called on the Trump administration to open the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges to the newly-uninsured. The exchanges are "the best resource we have," Biden said.

But with the healthcare marketplaces forcing Americans to pay monthly premiums and co-pays, Public Citizen said, Biden's demand will do little to help people have lost their income.

"With millions of people no longer getting a paycheck, paying insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses will only deter people from seeking care they need," the group said.

The non-profit health insurance data firm FAIR Health reported last week that uninsured Americans could face as much as $75,000 in medical bills if they contract COVID-19 and have to be hospitalized. 

In additional to creating grave personal financial hardships, said the group, the loss of insurance for potentially tens of millions of Americans will make it harder to slow the spread of the virus and keep the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

"Not only can Medicare help individual Americans get through this crisis, but it also can help us collectively protect public health as the pandemic intensifies," Weissman said.


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.

Historic Offshore Wind Lease Sale in California Gets Over $750 Million in Winning Bids

"If we build on today's forward momentum, the United States can dramatically reduce its global warming emissions and become a global leader in renewable energy technologies like deep-water offshore wind."

Brett Wilkins ·


Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·


Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo