As leading organizations representing consumers, employers, workers, providers, and health plans, we write to express our deep concern about the erosion of American health coverage. To protect families’ access to care and financial security, to fight the pandemic effectively, to reduce health and economic inequities, and to save jobs and promote economic recovery, we urge Congress to prioritize comprehensive health coverage in the current COVID-19 legislative package.
Many observers agree that the number of uninsured is significantly rising because of economic downturn, the most severe since the Great Depression. Nearly 30 million people report not having enough food to eat, and almost 40 million adults have little or no confidence they can pay their next month’s mortgage or rent. These burdens compound when people lose health insurance and face unpaid medical bills, especially for families of color, who experience greater medical debt and job loss. No one in America should have to choose between obtaining essential health care and keeping the lights on, but that is exactly the choice millions of people will face unless Congress protects their health insurance.
Large and growing health insurance gaps also compromise our country’s ability to combat COVID-19. Without health insurance, people are literally four times as likely to delay seeking necessary care because of cost or to forego needed care altogether. When uninsured people who unknowingly contract the disease begin to feel sick, the resulting delays in obtaining diagnosis and treatment not only endanger their health and survival, they also let the disease spread undetected to others. Funding of services limited to COVID-19 falls far short of what our country needs, as millions of Americans report that cost will still deter them from seeking care, even if they experience common coronavirus symptoms.
Comprehensive health insurance is also vital to the economy. Non-partisan economic leaders, including the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office, warn that economic recovery depends on effectively combatting COVID-19. Only if people know it is safe to leave home can commerce commence in earnest. Restoring safety by controlling the pandemic will not be possible if the number of uninsured is high and rising.
Nearly one in seven Americans are employed by hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other health care providers, which can keep the lights on and the doors open only if their patients have health insurance that lets them seek care. One recent study projects that, even under relatively favorable economic conditions, between 1.5 million and 2.5 million Americans will lose their jobs this year due to health insurance reductions if Congress fails to act;8 more than half of all projected job losses come from seven states (Texas, California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Georgia, and Pennsylvania).
It is now imperative for Congress to safeguard comprehensive health coverage in COVID-19 emergency legislation. Failure to do so will not only hurt families’ ability to stay healthy and to maintain their financial security, it will also end millions of jobs and obstruct the vital work of economic recovery. We urge you to take immediate action to protect comprehensive health insurance before it is too late.
American Association on Health and Disability
America’s Health Insurance Plans
American College of Physicians
Association for Community Affiliated Plans
America’s Physician Groups
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Go2Foundation for Lung Cancer
Lupus Foundation of America
Mental Health America
National Birth Equity Collaborative
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Health Council
National Partnership for Women and Families
Pacific Business Group on Health
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
United States of Care
CC: Members, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives
You can view the letter here.