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A new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll offers insights into the impact of the coronavirus on Americans’ personal health, economic, and food security, as well as about the Medicaid program.
The findings expose some troubling trends. Nearly half of adults (48%) say they or someone in their household have postponed or skipped medical care due to the outbreak, and 11% say their or their family member’s condition worsened as a result.
At the same time, about four in ten adults report that coronavirus-related stress has negatively impacted their mental health, including 12% who say it has had a “major” impact. Income or job loss may exacerbate these harms. Among adults in such households (who make up one-third of adults overall), 46% say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Financial challenges are also widespread; three in ten adults say they have been unable to afford basic needs like food and health coverage in recent months. This suggests that many who have lost their jobs may also have lost their health coverage or the ability to pay for it.
In some states, newly uninsured individuals may be eligible for Medicaid. Perhaps as a result, support for the program remains strong. Most adults (55%) say Medicaid is personally important to them, and two-thirds of respondents in states that have not expanded Medicaid say their state should do so. Three-quarters of Americans—including a majority of Democrats (85%), Independents (73%), and Republicans (62%)—oppose cutting Medicaid to address pandemic-related state budget shortfalls.
Medicaid is an important lifeline, and Americans who urgently need coverage and do not qualify for the program may have limited options. As previously noted, unemployment among Medicare-eligible adults is skyrocketing, quadrupling between March and April alone. While some of these individuals may have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that allows them to sign up for Medicare, they may still face financial penalties or other barriers to affordable coverage. Others may have much more restricted enrollment opportunities, or none at all.
These realities highlight the need for additional coronavirus relief at the federal, state, and local levels. To meet current and anticipated needs, Medicare Rights supports a variety of reforms, many of which are outlined in the HEROES Act—including the establishment of a coronavirus-specific Medicare enrollment pathway, enhanced funding for state Medicaid programs, and investments in community-based services. A comprehensive approach is necessary to most effectively promote Americans’ health and economic security during the coronavirus crisis and beyond.
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