The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn are posing new challenges for families seeking health care. Not only have many providers rescheduled patient visits or closed their practices because of the pandemic, but patients have also shied away from seeing their regular physicians. Forgone or delayed care because of cost or fear of exposure to the novel coronavirus will not affect everyone the same way. In this brief, we examine health care affordability problems and avoidance of care due to concerns about exposure to the novel coronavirus during the pandemic, highlighting the experiences of adults in families who have lost work or work-related income. We use new data from the first wave of the Urban Institute’s Coronavirus Tracking Survey, a nationally representative survey of nonelderly adults conducted May 14 through 27, 2020. We find the following:
- Almost half (45.5 percent) of adults in families losing work or work-related income reported unmet need for medical care in the family because of costs in the 30 days before the survey and/or avoidance of care because of concerns about exposure to the coronavirus.
- Among adults in families losing work or work-related income because of the outbreak, more than half of those with lower incomes and those with uninsured family members, those in families with chronic conditions, and parents living with children under 19 were in families that avoided health care because of cost or concerns about exposure to the coronavirus.
The unprecedented decline in economic activity because of the current public health crisis threatens to worsen existing health care disparities and upend family financial stability for many, especially those who lose employment. Policies that make care affordable and safe to access will be critical to ensuring families, particularly those losing jobs, get the medical care they need during the pandemic.