Although Americans get about 1 billion colds per year, the vast majority of Americans would agree that the novel coronavirus is a lot more serious than the common cold. Not only is COVID-19 a potentially fatal condition, but it’s also proven deadly for countless American businesses. With many being forced to temporarily lay off employees or even close entirely, the current economic situation has left millions of U.S. residents out of work — and out of luck when it comes to their health insurance.
Under normal circumstances, being designated as a full-time employee offers certain benefits and even protections. When on-the-job injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, the first temporary disability payment is due within 14 days of an employer learning about those injuries. In addition to those kinds of protections, many workers are also given perks like vacation time, retirement fund matching, and employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, widespread job loss has resulted in widespread insurance coverage loss at a time when Americans need reliable healthcare most. And since younger generations were also more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, it makes sense that Millennials and Gen Z were also more likely to lose their health insurance coverage during the past year.
According to a recent survey conducted by TransUnion, 33% of Gen Z and 29% of millennial participants reported that their health insurance coverage was disrupted by the pandemic, compared to about only 12% of Baby Boomers who said the same. Although the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that just under half of Americans obtained health insurance through their employers in 2019, millions experienced layoffs in 2020 that would have impacted their ability to retain coverage. And considering that 39% of Americans don’t have enough money on hand to cover a $400 emergency, it should come as no surprise that those who lost coverage were also likely to defer certain healthcare visits due to cost.
As Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare, explained in a statement: “Our survey found, due to the pandemic, larger percentages of younger generations deferred non-essential care and had their insurance coverage impacted. At the same time, the industry has reported only modest shifts in payer mix despite the economic and financial impacting these individuals, going against expectations and signifying a gap in coverage. These findings indicate that while a greater percentage of these patients lost health insurance coverage due to the pandemic, the moderate change in payer mix could be because they avoided non-essential care and likely did not seek alternative coverage.”
It also seems that these younger individuals are understandably more likely to research healthcare costs. Whether due to an increased reliance on out-of-pocket affordability or due to budgetary restraints stemming from employment shifts, 90% of Gen Z respondents and 87% of millennials said they spent time online looking up healthcare costs, while only 69% of Baby Boomers said the same.
Millennials and Gen Zers already had a complicated relationship with their health insurance coverage. One 2019 survey found that millennials were far less satisfied with their coverage than individuals belonging to older demographics, while a 2018 report revealed that millennials were more likely to be uninsured due to costs. Roughly one in five millennials said they were dissatisfied with the healthcare system to which they had access and many were concerned with potential changes to healthcare coverage (like those that would disqualify individuals with pre-existing conditions).
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Biden Administration has reopened the federal health insurance marketplace, which means that many of those who lost coverage due to the pandemic can now obtain coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Now through May 15, you can enroll in a plan through the ACA website (or through your state’s equivalent) during this special enrollment period. As many as 9 million Americans even qualify for free or subsidized coverage. You may also have the opportunity to change your coverage during this time.
While not everyone will be eligible for reduced-cost policies, it’s important to remember that health insurance costs can provide valuable peace of mind — especially during an ongoing pandemic. Although a high-deductible, low-premium plan isn’t always the best choice for everyone, it can be a good option if you’re working with a limited monthly budget and you don’t visit the doctor very frequently. You should also check about the costs associated with specialist visits and prescription medications before you pick the plan for you, as well as available telemedicine options.
The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as the perfect health insurance coverage. But during these still-unprecedented times, it’s better to be safe than sorry (if you can afford it).
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius