Earlier today, the U.S. House voted to approve the American Rescue Plan that now heads to President Biden for signing later this week. The bill providing $1.9 trillion in spending is set to be one of the largest investments in the social safety net in U.S. history.
The American Rescue Plan substantially addresses the number of uninsured or underinsured folks by offering more affordable subsidized plans on the ACA marketplace. It’s projected to cut the child poverty rate in half. Lastly, in a major policy win for EverThrive IL priorities, the bill offers states the option to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum individuals from 60 days to 12 months.
This landmark legislative victory will bring to the front a number of priorities that will support and build healthier communities at a time when families desperately need it.
How Uninsured Rates and COVID-19 Created the Perfect Storm
Over the past two decades, experts have warned that significant gaps in coverage in the U.S. could speed the spread of contagious diseases and worsen epidemics. People without insurance, or underinsured, are likely to delay or even skip seeking care when they feel sick because of the inhibiting cost of care. This delay also puts the public at risk of contracting the illness as that person continues to go to work, school, and interact with others.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved these concerns are real, and the impact of widespread un- and underinsurance in the U.S. is, in fact, deadly. According to this recent report from Families USA, when the proportion of uninsured people in a county increased by 10%, there was an associated 70% increase in COVID-19 cases and an astonishing 48% increase in COVID-19 deaths. The report is centered around one striking question: if everyone in the U.S. had health insurance, how many people would have been spared, and how many deaths prevented? The study found:
- Nationally, roughly 1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths are linked to health insurance gaps.
- More than 40% of all COVID-19 infections are associated with health insurance gaps.
- By August 31, 2020, health insurance gaps were linked to an estimated 2.6 million COVID-19 cases and 58,000 COVID-19 deaths. By February 1, 2021, 10.9 million infections and 143,000 COVID-19 deaths may have been associated with health insurance gaps.
These astounding numbers show widespread accessible and inclusive health coverage is a cornerstone to our health as a nation overall and should be a human right. The report reveals the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be remedied by a silver bullet vaccine approach alone. This pandemic forces us to look deeper into problems in our health care system and the underlying inequity in this country.
So What’s Next
The American Rescue Plan is an excellent first step, but it alone will not be enough to advance health equity and support healthier, thriving communities.
We cannot stop now. The pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of one of EverThrive IL’s biggest priority areas: ensuring everyone has access to high-quality, affordable, and comprehensive health care. Coverage gaps aren’t an issue we can put off as something that only affects specific populations; health care access inequity leads to devasting effects for us all.
Mount Holyoke College ’22