By Consumers For Quality Care, on September 10, 2020
Like millions of Americans across the country, Michael Kerr lost his job and his employer-sponsored health care as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt like I needed to cover myself in bubble wrap and stay in the house,” he said. “Every ache and pain got a little bit more scary.”
According to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 27 million Americans could lose employer-sponsored health care. However, older people under the age of 65 are most vulnerable given that they have to pay higher premiums and may also have a harder time finding work.
Stan Dorn, director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation, says that people who lose health insurance between the ages of 45 and 64 often have greater health costs. He also argues that the loss of insurance for this age group could negatively impact the economy since many of these people will avoid going to the hospital out of fear that they can’t afford it.
“These folks are more expensive for an employer than younger adults because the average cost of health insurance is more for them,” he said. And that added cost could be “an extra incentive to get rid of them.”
Once Kerr realized he was going to lose his job, he tried to navigate the health care system on his own, but quickly became confused.
A health insurance expert who often works with people in Kerr’s age group says there are two options available to them: enroll in COBRA to extend employer-sponsored health insurance or hope to find an affordable plan in the marketplace.
While Kerr was able to find an affordable plan in the marketplace, David Grande, a health expert at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks that COBRA is often the better option for people who qualify. He is also critical of the lack of government intervention in health care, especially amid a pandemic.
“There needs to be a strong national effort to make subsidized coverage advertised, available, and easy to access,” he said. “We’re seeing the limits of the Affordable Care Act through individuals who don’t qualify for subsidies, who probably should be subsidized at a point like this.”
According to Grande, one solution to help cut costs for consumers is to expand Medicaid in states that haven’t already done so.