Starting in the spring of 2020, the number of uninsured Americans began to rise after companies large and small laid off workers during the coronavirus pandemic. With those layoffs, workers lost their employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI). Since then, a number of organizations have estimated the effect of the coronavirus on the unemployment rate. In August, the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, estimated that 6.2 million Americans lost their ESI. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that the Urban Institute estimated a net increase in uninsured Americans of 2.9 million over the last three quarters of 2020 while an earlier model from the Urban Institute estimated an increase in the number of uninsured Americans of between 5.1 million and 8.5 million. An estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 27 million Americans would lose employer coverage and be at risk of being uninsured in 2020. The problem with all of these estimates, however, is that the extent of economic dislocation from the pandemic is unknown given that the number of infections and deaths continued to rise throughout 2020.
Joseph Burns (@jburns18) has been covering health care since 1991 and writes frequently about health policy and the business of health care for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, Fortune magazine and Hospitals & Health Networks.