Thanks to the design of the American healthcare system and Texas' failure to expand access to Medicaid, the results of a new Kaiser Family Foundation study into COVID-19's effects on access to health insurance aren't surprising. It doesn't make them any less of a crisis or Texas Sen. John Cornyn's advice on what the newly uninsured should do any less refreshing.
The study estimates that 26.8 million people in the United States have lost their health insurance a little more than two months into lockdowns caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. About 1.6 million of the newly uninsured live in Texas, according to the survey.
Before the crisis, Texas already had both the highest number of uninsured residents and the nation's highest uninsured rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About five million Texans lacked health insurance. Now, that number is creeping closer to seven million.
If there's a silver lining to be found in the bad news, it's in the following two quotes.
First there's this, from Kaiser Executive Vice President for Health Policy Larry Levitt:
“Unlike in past recessions, most of those who lose their job-based coverage will be eligible for health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, though some may find coverage unaffordable even with subsidies,” Levitt said. “As unemployment benefits expire, however, about two million more people in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA will move into the Medicaid coverage gap and have no affordable option.”
While Texas, despite repeated calls from Democrats, is unlikely to expand access to Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act is a lifeline to those newly without jobs, one that wasn't available during the late '00s housing recession.
Here's the second quote, from a surprisingly agreeable John Cornyn:
"Well, the good news is that if you lose your employer-provided coverage, which covers about 180 million Americans, that is a significant life event, which makes you then eligible to sign up for the Affordable Care Act — and as you know, it has a sliding scale of subsidies up to 400% of poverty," Cornyn said, during an interview with PBS Austin. "So that's an option for people.... [T]he good news is people can find, get coverage under the Affordable Care Act or via Medicaid based on their income."
Cornyn's taken a lot of heat for his comments — one of the Democrats hoping to unseat him in November, MJ Hegar, has sent out at least four campaign emails about Cornyn's comments — but the Observer would like to commend him for recommending the most sensible option to his constituents for maintaining health coverage.
Sure, Texas' senior senator has done everything he can to fight the ACA — Politico called him "Obamacare repeal’s top salesman" during the summer of 2017 — and the law wouldn't be around to protect Texans if he'd anything to do with it, but better to find God in a foxhole than not at all.
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