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Millions of Households Lose Health Care Due to Layoffs -Yet More Proof that We Need Universal, Free Healthcare

On April 7, an Annals of Internal Medicine article by Physicians for a National Health Program co-founders Steffie Woolhandler MD and David Himmelstein MD discussed increasing numbers of US households without medical insurance because of ongoing mass layoffs — around 10 million in the last two weeks, likely many more ahead.

According to a Fed estimate, US unemployment will likely affect around 47 million US workers by end of June.

Most often, layoffs include loss of company-provided medical insurance.

Corporate bailout legislation covers COVID-19 testing for uninsured Americans, treatment for all health issues excluded from the measure.

Because of current dire economic conditions that may worsen before improving at an unknown later time, millions of US workers and their family members will lose healthcare coverage.

The authors explained that “(c)overage losses are likely to be steepest in states that have turned down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion,” adding:

“(N)early 1 in 4 newly unemployed workers in nonexpansion states are likely to lose coverage, bringing their overall uninsurance rate to nearly 40%.”

Affected households are likely to be among the nation’s most vulnerable.

In most cases when one or members are employed, they’re likely to be working in low-income part-time or temp jobs, living from paycheck to paycheck.

Mass unemployment combined with lack of healthcare coverage is an untenable situation — doubly so in the world’s richest nation.

Tens of millions of Americans were uninsured before current crisis conditions occurred, their numbers now swelling exponentially, an issue only the federal government can address adequately.

The authors urged enactment of “an emergency measure, authorizing Medicare coverage for all persons eligible for unemployment benefits.”

Current economic crisis conditions are clear evidence of the need for Medicare for all.

Yet Republicans and Dems haven’t touched this issue, focusing mainly on free money and other handouts to corporate favorites.

The authors quoted Victor Fucks, saying a decade ago that “(n)ational health insurance will probably come to the United States after a major change in the political climate—the kind of change that often accompanies a war, a depression, or large-scale civil unrest.”

Given indifference toward human needs and welfare by the US ruling class, especially since the neoliberal 90s, it’s likely wishful thinking to believe current dire conditions will deliver universal healthcare to all Americans.

It didn’t happen during a decade of 1930s Great Depression with Franklin Roosevelt as president.

Trump and the vast majority in Congress one-sidedly favor privileged interests over the public welfare even during hard times like now.

The authors said perhaps change of this importance may be possible given current conditions.

It would likely take unprecedented sustained public pressure, bordering on rebellion, to have any chance for enacting into law what never before existed in the US.

Originally appeared at: American Herald Tribune