By Mike Stankiewicz
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on many of the problems embedded in our broken health care system – including how 160 million Americans get their insurance coverage.
In just five weeks since the pandemic began to spread in the U.S., more than 26 million people filed for unemployment. These layoffs now mean that millions of people and their families have lost their health insurance at the worst time possible. About 3.5 million people lost their employer-tied health insurance in March.
Without insurance, people are less likely to seek medical testing or treatment, resulting in increased suffering and death from the pandemic.
A deadly pandemic is spurring mass layoffs in a country that insists on tying health care access to employment. Let that sink in.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) March 26, 2020
While the COVID-19 crisis is global, the fallout from employer-tied insurance is uniquely American. In Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and most other wealthy countries, citizens don’t need to worry about losing their coverage if they lose their jobs.
Unsurprisingly, as layoffs and coronavirus cases increase concurrently, support for Medicare for All has skyrocketed.
According to a recent poll by Morning Consult and Politico, support for Medicare for All has jumped by nine points in the past month, and support is near the record high level set in January 2019.
Citizens who could lose health coverage by getting fired:
N Zealand 0
S Korea 0
UK 0 pic.twitter.com/mcVnBknenz
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) April 16, 2020
As a temporary remedy, Public Citizen has led a petition to Congress to demand that any American who loses their health insurance due to layoffs during the pandemic be immediately and automatically enrolled in Medicare.
However, temporary remedies are just that. Ultimately, the fight will not end until we make health care a right for all – regardless of age or employment status.