Analysis: Frontline COVID-19 Workers Disproportionately Lack Health Insurance

50% of Farm Workers, 26% of Home Care Workers Have No Insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Frontline workers deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic – including agricultural, meatpacking, construction and grocery store employees – are disproportionately less likely to have health insurance, despite their increased risk of being afflicted with the coronavirus, a new Public Citizen analysis found.

Agricultural workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, have the highest uninsured rates of all essential workers surveyed – about 50%, compared to the national average of about 9%. Nursing and home care workers have uninsured rates of 12% and 26%, respectively. About 15.5% of meatpacking workers are uninsured and reported outbreaks in more than 500 meat and poultry facilities nationwide have already killed more than 200 workers.

In the food industry, where many restaurants are coming to reopen, 27% of cooks and 22% of servers are uninsured. About 24% of construction workers and 12% of grocery store workers are also uninsured. These frontline workers are unable to socially distance or work from home and often must interact with patients and customers, leaving them at particularly high risk.

“Just as the Trump Administration has failed the country on COVID-19, the private health insurance system has failed essential frontline workers,” said Zach Brown, author of the analysis. “These workers are risking their lives to ensure we have access to the health care, food, and other services we need. The least we could do, as a society, is to ensure they have health insurance so they don’t go bankrupt when they get sick.”