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35 million Americans could lose health insurance amid mass layoffs

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/6/2020 Joseph Zeballos-Roig

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Video by ABC News

    Up to 35 million Americans could lose their health insurance in the coming weeks as businesses lay off workers due to the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

    The astonishing projection from Health Management Associates underscores the pandemic's ripple effects from the economy into health care. The group said that the number of uninsured Americans could spike to 40 million people, a level unseen since before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.

    The study also estimated 23 million Americans could enroll in Medicaid, ensuring many would still receive insurance through other means. But 5 million Americans might still wind up uninsured.

    The economic fallout from the coronavirus caused more than 10 million people to file for unemployment benefits in March. That unprecedented surge will likely lead many people to lose their health insurance, given that around half of American workers are covered by their employers.

    The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think-tank, recently estimated 3.5 million people lost their health coverage in the last two weeks of March. 

    The Trump administration has come under increasing pressure to allow a new enrollment period for the health-care exchanges under the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare. Doing so would create a new option for unemployed Americans to replace their work-sponsored insurance, but the White House has decided against it.

    On Friday, the administration reminded people they qualify to get insurance on the exchanges if they lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic -- a striking suggestion as it supports a lawsuit to eliminate the law.

    Congressional Democrats are pushing for a new special enrollment period in a future coronavirus relief bill.

    Meanwhile, progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate, has tried making the case for universal healthcare in the US in the wake of the pandemic.

    "At a time when millions are losing their jobs AND their health care, the American people are now seeing the gross deficiencies in our employer-based private health care system," Sanders said in an April 3 tweet. "Health care is a human right, not an employee benefit. Medicare for All!" 

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