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1.6M Texans Lost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Because Of The Pandemic

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Dallas Williams / Texas Public Radio

Texas already had the nation's highest uninsured rate pre-pandemic and the gap is expected to widen much further in its wake. The outbreak leveled the U.S. economy and caused massive layoffs, costing people not only their jobs but also their employer-sponsored health care coverage.

Approximately half of Americans get health care as a workplace benefit. Nearly 40 million Americans and more than 2 million Texans have filed for unemployment amid the public health crisis, and an estimated 1.6 million Texas residents have already lost coverage along with their jobs. 

Of those who lose employer-sponsored insurance, an estimated 7 of 10 will be able to get it elsewhere -- either through Medicaid or a subsidized Affordable Care Act plan -- but only 1 in 2 Texans will be able to.'

A new report estimates that in 2021, 27% of the country's total coverage gap will be in Texas. More than 1.1 million Texans will be stuck in between coverage options, making too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to qualify for an ACA subsidized plan.

The ACA allows states to expand Medicaid access to all who are at or near the poverty line, but so far Texas leadership has declined to do so. Will expansion be back on the table post-pandemic? What are the biggest challenges?

What options currently exist for adults who lost employer-based insurance due to the outbreak and their families? How do Texas' uninsured and underinsured rates affect overall health outcomes?

Why are so many Texans falling through the health care safety net? What issues has the pandemic exposed about Texas' coverage gap and U.S. health care policy, and what can be done to improve the system?

Guests:

  • Dr. Sue Bornstein, M.D., internal medicine physician and board trustee for the Texas Medical Association
  • Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation and health policy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy 
  • Ken Janda, founder Wild Blue Health Solutions health care consultancy, adjunct professor in business at Rice University and adjunct faculty member in population health at the University of Houston College of Medicine

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, May 27.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.