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Possible solutions for millions struggling to find health insurance amid pandemic

Millions are losing their health insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Posted at 3:16 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 16:41:35-04

As the nationwide unemployment rate continues to sit in unprecedented territory, the dramatic job loss numbers also mean millions of Americans have suddenly found themselves without health insurance.

Experts call it a cruel twist during the pandemic, meaning many people who get sick with COVID-19 may not get the health care help they need because they don’t have coverage.

“We have massive numbers of people who are worried about their health but who no longer have coverage,” said Michelle Johnson, who oversees the nonprofit Tennessee Justice Center.

Johnson says calls to her organization have increased dramatically in the last few months as Americans are finding themselves uninsured after losing their jobs due to COVID-19.

“We’re just going to continue seeing people who are losing their insurance,” she said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 27 million people in the United States may have lost employer-sponsored insurance. Roughly half of Americans receive health insurance through their jobs. And while programs like COBRA allow people who have been laid off to continue their coverage, many can’t afford to pay those costs with no income.

Johnson says the problem is particularly troubling in state’s like hers where Medicaid expansion already meant there were hundreds of thousands of residents who were uninsured.

She hopes the federal government might consider opening enrollment in the Affordable Care Act to help those who have suddenly lost coverage.

Johnson’s biggest concern though, is the consequences may prove deadly as those without coverage now avoid trips to the doctor or emergency room for fear of getting stuck with bills they can’t afford.

“People will delay getting the care they need because they’re worried about being a financial burden,” said Johnson.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.