The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History - Families Usa Skip to Main Content

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History

By Stan Dorn,


Note: Updated 07/17/2020

Because of job losses between February and May of this year, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured. These recent increases in the number of uninsured adults are 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million nonelderly adults became uninsured.

These record-breaking increases in the number of uninsured have taken place during the country’s worst public-health crisis in more than a century and the sharpest and deepest economic downturn since World War II. Nevertheless, no federal COVID-19 legislation signed into law has attempted to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance. Now is the time to fill that gap by including protections for comprehensive health insurance in the next COVID-19 bill.

Uninsured Adults: May 2020

Percentage of nonelderly adults who are currently uninsured:

<10% 10-12% 13-14% 15-19% 20%+


Sources: Gangopadhyaya, Anuj, and Bowen Garrett. “Unemployment, Health Insurance, and the COVID-19 Recession.” (Urban Institute, March 31, 2020),; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “States and selected areas: Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population, January 1976 to Date, Seasonally Adjusted.” State Employment and Unemployment (Monthly), last modified June 19, 2020.; National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA analysis of 2018 data from the American Community Survey. IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota,

Note: Estimates of adult workers becoming uninsured from February to May 2020 apply, to state-level changes in the number of unemployed workers and the number of adults in the labor force, coverage estimates from Gangopadhyaya and Garrett that estimate average coverage levels in Medicaid-expansion states and non-expansion states from 2014-2018. Estimates of total uninsured adults in May 2020 combine (1) estimates from 2018, the most recent year for which pre-COVID-19 data are available for all 50 states, with (2) coverage losses estimated to result from job losses from February through May 2020.

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