Study finds 1.6 million Texans have lost their employer-based health coverage

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Health policy researchers estimate 1.6 million Texans have lost their employer-based health coverage since the start of the pandemic.

The new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation calculated the number by looking at unemployment insurance claims and industry-specific job loss since March. 

The 1.6 million figure — 26.8 million nationwide — is not a tally of those who are currently without health coverage due to job loss. Rather, it is an estimate of those who lost or are in the process of losing their employer-based coverage. Texans who have lost their employer-based health insurance may have already found coverage elsewhere, either through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or short-term plans. But many will inevitably fall through the cracks, entering what health policy experts have dubbed the Medicaid coverage gap.

“Unlike in past recessions, most of those who lose their job-based coverage will be eligible for health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, though some may find coverage unaffordable even with subsidies,” said KFF Executive Vice President for Health Policy Larry Levitt in a prepared statement. “As unemployment benefits expire, however, about two million more people in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA will move into the Medicaid coverage gap and have no affordable option.”

Texas is among a dozen states that have yet to expand Medicaid. Texas Republicans have repeatedly snubbed more than $100 billion in federal funding offered by the ACA to pay to expand Medicaid eligibility to many of Texas’ most impoverished residents.

As a result, pre-Obamacare Medicaid eligibility rules still reign in the Lone Star State and low-income childless adults are not eligible for Medicaid coverage or subsidized coverage.

Texas already had the biggest coverage gap in the country, with an estimated 750,000 and 1 million uninsured Texans who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid under ACA rules. Now, KFF is estimating an additional 30,000 Texans will enter the coverage gap because of job loss in the pandemic. As unemployment benefits expire, that number is expected to grow to 380,000 by January 2021.

“For the last two sessions, Democrats have tried to expand Medicaid in the House, but Republicans defeated it on a straight-party line vote,” State Rep. Chris Turner, Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said in a recent statement. “However, if he chose, Gov. Abbott could take immediate action today to instruct HHSC to seek a waiver to expand Medicaid. Additionally, he should direct Attorney General Paxton to drop the state’s lawsuit to overturn the ACA.”

Prior to the pandemic, Texas was already first in the nation for the highest share of residents without health coverage. Census data in 2018 showed 18 percent of Texans, or about 5 million people, were uninsured.

Photo: Getty Images

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