Job losses soared in March and April 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and many economists forecast a long and slow economic recovery. For some people, losing their job means losing the health insurance coverage they had through their job. In this paper, we use microsimulation to take full advantage of the limited information currently available. Our microsimulation model, the Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model, incorporates data on employment losses by industry, state, and demographic characteristics, allowing us to simulate employment losses matching actual employment losses reported by the government.
We find that 48 million people will live in families with a worker who experiences a COVID-19-related job loss in the last three quarters of 2020. Of them, 10.1 million lose employer coverage tied to that job. We estimate 32 percent of these people switch to another source of employer coverage through a family member, 28 percent enroll in Medicaid, and 6 percent enroll in the nongroup market, mainly in marketplace coverage with premium tax credits. Still, we estimate 3.5 million people in this group become uninsured.