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Study: 5.4M Americans lost health insurance amid pandemic

Cars idle for miles in line for food being distributed to residents impacted by the COVID-19 crisis at Jordan High School in Long Beach, Calif., on May 9. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Cars idle for miles in line for food being distributed to residents impacted by the COVID-19 crisis at Jordan High School in Long Beach, Calif., on May 9. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- An estimated 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance between February and May because of job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new study said, stating it is the greatest loss in healthcare coverage in the country's history.

The 23-page report, published by the nonpartisan Families USA consumer advocacy group on Monday, said the number of people who lost their health insurance during the three-month period is 39 percent higher than any annual increase ever recorded, trumping the previous high of 3.9 million non-elderly adults who became uninsured during the one-year period of 2008 to 2009.

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Nearly half of those who lost insurance due to the pandemic reside in the five states of California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina, the report said, adding the new increases also mean that more than 20 percent of adults in the eight states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas are without health insurance.

"Families in America are losing comprehensive health insurance in record numbers," the report said. "This creates particularly serious dangers during a grave public health crisis and deep economic downturn."

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The numbers could also be much higher as they do not include the family members of workers who recently lost their jobs and with it their health insurance, said the report, which is the product of compiling data from each state to examine the effects of COVID-19 on workers below 65, the age at which one is guaranteed Medicare.

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Between February and May, 21.9 million Americans lost their jobs due to the economic contraction caused by states enforcing strict lockdown measures in an effort to stymie the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 3.3 million people in the United States resulting in more than 135,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Late last week, the Labor Department said more than 1.3 million American workers had filed new claims for unemployment benefits, representing the 16th straight week of at least 1 million new claims.

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Families USA said that despite the historic losses, no COVID-19 legislation has yet to be signed into law to protect comprehensive health insurance, stating that policymakers need to know the magnitude of coverage losses.

"Now is the time to fill that gap by including protections for comprehensive health insurance in the next COVID-19 bill," the consumer advocacy group said.

The report comes as cases continue to surge in the United States, which recorded more than 60,000 new cases a day in three of the past five days with the other two days recording just shy of that figure, according to data compiled by the Baltimore university.

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Many of the states where the number of uninsured has climbed are also experiencing dramatic increases in cases, such as Florida, which set a single-day record by any state at more than 15,000 new infections over the weekend, and California, which on Monday ordered dine-in restaurants, bars, movie theaters and the like to again close.

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