Power. Progress. Prevention. July 17, 2020

Published on July 17, 2020

Power. Progress. Prevention. -- An Advocacy Newsletter | Prevent Cancer Foundation

Health insurance coverage losses skyrocket amid the pandemic

In a study conducted by Families USA, researchers found that an estimated 5.4 million workers in the U.S. lost their health insurance between February and May this year. Since most people receive health care coverage through their employers, the millions of layoffs and business closures resulting from the pandemic have left many people without access to the care they need. The increase in uninsured adults over this three-month period is 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded.

The report provided alarming trends in several states:

  • Almost 50% of newly uninsured people come from just 5 states: California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Texas
  • Five states saw an increase of more than 40% in uninsured adults:
    • Massachusetts (nearly doubled, rising by 93%), Hawaii (72%), Rhode Island (55%), Michigan (46%) and New Hampshire (43%)
  • Eight states saw an increase of more than 20% in uninsured adults:
    • Texas (29%), Florida (25%), Oklahoma (24%), Georgia (23%), Mississippi (22%), Nevada (21%), North Carolina (20%) and South Carolina (20%)

Though Congress has passed several pieces of COVID-19 legislation, none have directly addressed protecting or preserving comprehensive health care coverage. Another relief package is in the works, however, and members of Congress are debating measures to expand subsidies and other financial support to help people purchase insurance plans in the Affordable Care (ACA) Marketplace.
If you or a family member need support or help with insurance options, please visit our page for resources.

Bill introduced to help smokers quit during the pandemic 

Representative Lisa Blunt-Rochester introduced legislation to support Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries. The Quit Because of COVID-19 Act (H.R. 7286) will enable Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries to access all FDA-approved, evidenced-based smoking cessation treatments at no cost for the duration of the pandemic and for two years after the national health emergency declaration is terminated.

Smoking has a significant impact on health outcomes and is linked to multiple types of cancer. Medicaid enrollees are twice as likely to smoke as those with private insurance, and people of color are overrepresented in Medicaid. A growing body of evidence shows that COVID-19 also disproportionately impacts people of color, and smokers are more likely to experience severe complications from the virus.

“Medicaid enrollees have disproportionately high rates of smoking, which puts them at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “This enhanced coverage will not only improve access to comprehensive cessation services, but it will help beneficiaries’ avoid serious health complications while reducing the health care costs associated with smoking. There couldn’t be a more critical time to make sure that everyone has the best chance to quit smoking successfully.”

By increasing access to critical smoking cessation products and treatments, this bill will protect vulnerable populations and reduce the risk for serious health problems or death. The Prevent Cancer Foundation® applauds Rep. Blunt-Rochester for her leadership in reducing smoking and tobacco-related complications with COVID-19.

Oklahoma expands Medicaid

Voters in Oklahoma narrowly passed a ballot initiative expanding Medicaid, becoming the 37th state to do so. The measure disrupts Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to serve as a test state for the Trump administration’s Medicaid block grant demonstration. The expansion must begin to no later than July 21, 2021.

The current total of Medicaid beneficiaries in Oklahoma is 833,304, and state officials estimate the expansion will add an additional 200,000 beneficiaries, reducing Oklahoma’s current 14% rate of uninsured adults—the second highest in the country after Texas. The cost of covering the additional Medicaid enrollees is around $1.3 billion, but under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal government pays for 90% of the increased cost. Oklahoma will need to pay between $160-$200 million per year. As the pandemic continues to impact budgets, the state is debating how to cover the additional expense.

Governor Stitt was a vocal opponent of the proposal. When asked about his thoughts on the additional funding requirements, he said, “You either pay for that by reducing roads and bridge funding, education funding, public safety funding, or you raise taxes.” 

“As your governor, I’m not raising taxes,” he said.

Oklahoma has been seeking approval for Medicaid work requirements since late 2018. If approved, requirements would apply to around 6,000 people. The requirements would force enrollees ages 19-50 to complete at least 20 hours of job-related activity per week, which can include job searching or community service.

The Trump administration also made a move this week by asking the Supreme Court to overrule the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision to block Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas. If the Supreme Court sides with the administration, it would have implications for the entire country, opening the path for other states to impose work requirements as well.

This is a developing story. We will provide updates as they occur.


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