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Most Furloughed Workers Holding Onto Health Coverage for Now

June 23, 2020, 4:07 AM

More people are uninsured as a result of Covid-19, but many furloughed workers are still holding on to employer coverage—for now.

Findings from a report released Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund found that of the 2,271 adults surveyed from May 13 through June 2, 21% said they or their partner had lost a job or were furloughed as a result of the pandemic. But 53% still had health coverage through the job. About three in 10 respondents with no coverage through a job affected by the pandemic are uninsured.

The Commonwealth Fund, a think tank that pushes for a greater government role in providing health care to get everyone covered, concluded that the large share of respondents still getting coverage through a furloughed job “accounted for the relative stability of insurance coverage in the findings.”

But, it said, “Whether those on furlough regain their jobs, or lose them permanently, will determine the longer-term effect of the pandemic on employer-based coverage.”

The report provides an early look at the potential implications of the pandemic on health coverage. Twenty-one million people were unemployed in May, according to the Department of Labor, the report said. More than half of U.S. adults depend on their employer or a family member’s employer for their health insurance.

A separate survey released Monday by Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance found most insurers in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces aren’t asking for large rate increases in 2021 due to Covid-19.

Georgetown reviewed preliminary actuarial filings in New York, a state hard hit by the pandemic; the District of Columbia; Oregon; Vermont; and Washington.

In most states, insurers are required to submit their proposed premium rates for 2021 in July, the report said. Several states ask for and publicly post insurers’ proposed rates in May and June, it said.

“These early rate filings can provide hints about how insurers are responding to market trends, policy changes, and emerging drivers of health care costs,” the report said.

Covid-19 cost estimates for most insurers vary from no impact to 5% of premiums, with most projecting a zero to 2% impact, Georgetown said. Fidelis in New York, a subsidiary of Centene Corp., is an outlier, projecting an 8.4% Covid-19-related cost increase, it said.

Most insurers have had a substantially lower number of claims so far in 2020 because of deferred care. Many have been providing premium rebates and other types of support to providers and communities as a result of the reduced claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at; Brent Bierman at