Over 110,000 Mainers have lost work because of COVID-19 and filed for unemployment. But losing work involves more than lost pay. Many Maine families, and more than half of Maine’s children, get health coverage through employer-sponsored insurance. As children lose access to health care because of a pandemic, it’s time to rethink how we insure children and to create coverage that is not tied to the workplace.
We are just beginning to understand the impact of COVID-19 job loss on health coverage. A May 4 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study estimates 25 million to 43 million people in the U.S. will lose coverage because of the pandemic: “All unemployment scenarios indicate that millions of people under age 65 will lose ESI coverage throughout the country.” Nationally, 6.6 million to 12.6 million children will lose employer-sponsored insurance. In Maine, 72,000 to 131,000 children will lose employer-sponsored insurance.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Families First Act have shored up coverage for children currently insured by Medicaid and CHIP, and for the many children who will become eligible after losing employer-sponsored insurance. These programs are lifelines for families experiencing a loss of employment during the pandemic. They provide child-specific health care and long-term health, education and economic benefits.
We can separate children’s health care from the workplace by using CHIP as a model. A state-federal partnership could make CHIP universally available, ensuring that children receive health care in moments of crisis like the one we currently face.
Democratic state representative