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Rising Unemployment Means Millions More Uninsured During Devastating Pandemic

Statement of Eagan Kemp, Health Care Policy Advocate, Public Citizen

Note: Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that a record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, largely in response to COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus.

In the U.S., losing your job also means that you and your family lose your health insurance. The dramatic increase in unemployment couldn’t have happened at a worse time given that hundreds of millions of Americans may contract COVID-19, with many requiring extensive medical treatment. Doing so without insurance means facing medical debt and bankruptcy, if you can afford care at all. While the latest stimulus package contains short-term improvements to unemployment insurance, more must be done to ensure that workers and all Americans can get the care they need.

Among comparably wealthy countries, the U.S. is the only one that binds access to health care with employment status. It’s a key reason that nearly 30 million Americans are uninsured. The time has come to break this cruel connection and instead guarantee health care for everyone in the U.S., regardless of employment status or ability to pay. This crisis has shown in myriad ways that we need Medicare for All.