Tag Archives: unemployment

Mass Unemployment and COVID-19: What It Means for Health Insurance

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D. and David Himmelstein, M.D. wrote yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine that many of those who lose, or already lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic have a lack of health insurance. Many did not have insurance before the outbreak, and now that they are unemployed, their employer-based insurance will end as well.

Here is the article in full:

Annals of Internal Medicine

April 7, 2020

Intersecting U.S. Epidemics: COVID-19 and Lack of Health Insurance

By Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH; David U. Himmelstein, MD

During the final week of March 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that a record number of workers—6.648 million—filed new claims for unemployment benefits. That beat the previous record of 3.307 million filings, which was set the week before, bringing the 2-week total to 9.955 million. This is just the beginning of the surge in joblessness due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A Federal Reserve Bank economist estimated that the ranks of unemployed persons will swell by 47.05 million by the end of June.

For many, job loss will carry the added sting of losing health insurance. Congress has moved to cover severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 testing for uninsured persons, but did not include provisions to cover treatment of COVID-19 (or other illnesses). The recent $2 trillion bailout bill offered no new health insurance subsidies or coverage.

Estimating Coverage Losses

We estimated the likely effects of current job losses on the number of uninsured persons by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2019 Current Population Survey on health insurance coverage rates among persons who lost or left a job. The uninsurance rate among unemployed persons who had lost or left a job was 26.3% versus 10.7% among those with jobs. Applying the 15.6–percentage point difference to the 9.955 million who filed new unemployment claims last week, we estimate that 1.553 million newly unemployed persons will lose health coverage. This figure excludes family members who will become uninsured because a breadwinner lost coverage and self-employed persons who may lose coverage because their businesses were shuttered, but are ineligible for unemployment benefits. If, as the Federal Reserve economist projects, an additional 47.05 million people become unemployed, 7.3 million workers (along with several million family members) are likely to join the ranks of the U.S. uninsured population.

Coverage losses are likely to be steepest in states that have turned down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. In expansion states, the share of persons who have lost or left a job who lacked coverage was 22.1% versus 8.3% for employed persons—a difference of 13.8 percentage points. In nonexpansion states, the uninsurance rate among such unemployed persons was 38.4% versus 15.8% for employed persons—a difference of 22.6 percentage points. In other words, nearly 1 in 4 newly unemployed workers in nonexpansion states are likely to lose coverage, bringing their overall uninsurance rate to nearly 40%.

Our projections are based on differences in coverage rates for employed and unemployed persons in 2019, but there is little reason to believe that the predicament of unemployed workers has improved since then. Although many who lose their jobs are likely to be eligible for Medicaid or subsidized Affordable Care Act coverage, and some will purchase continuing coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), the same was true in 2019. Indeed, the situation may be worse today because some laid-off workers probably gained coverage through an employed spouse in 2019, an option less likely to be available in the face of the impending massive layoffs.

Urgent Policy Needs and Longer-Term Solutions

With jobs and health insurance coverage disappearing as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, states that have declined to expand Medicaid should urgently reconsider. Yet, the high uninsurance rate among unemployed persons in Medicaid expansion states underlines the need for action in Washington. Tax revenues are plunging, and all states except Vermont are required to balance their budgets annually. Hence, only the federal government has the wherewithal to address the impending crisis.

Thus far, neither Congress nor the administration has offered plans to expand coverage. Some have suggested that the federal government cover COVID-19–related care for uninsured persons through Medicaid, but some states would probably decline such a Medicaid expansion, leaving many newly jobless persons—and the 28 million who were uninsured before the pandemic—without coverage. Instead, we advocate for passage of an emergency measure authorizing Medicare coverage for all persons eligible for unemployment benefits.

Although the COVID-19 crisis demands urgent action, it also exposes the imprudence of tying health insurance to employment, and the need for more thoroughgoing reform. A trickle of families facing the dual disaster of job loss and health insurance loss can remain under Washington’s radar. However, the current tsunami of job and coverage losses along with a heightened risk for severe illness demands action. A decade ago, Victor Fuchs forecasted that “National health insurance will probably come to the United States after a major change in the political climate—the kind of change that often accompanies a war, a depression, or large-scale civil unrest.” Such a major change may be upon us.

https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2764415/intersecting-u-s-epidemics-covid-19-lack-health-insurance

Say Goodbye to Comp

Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, today wrote a very prescient article about the impact the jobless economy will have on workers’ comp in the coming decades.

While the idea of driverless trucks may be something in the works, there are many factors working against it from becoming reality in the near term, and perhaps for many years to come. Laws and insurance requirements and what to do if the truck breaks down on a stretch of highway not easily accessible by repair trucks or miles from the nearest truck stop, will have to considered before driverless trucks put drivers out of work.

Yet, as Joe points out, manufacturing is already seeing a loss of jobs due to automation and higher productivity, which will lead to lower consumer costs, but will exact an even higher cost on the nation’s stability and will force politicians to come to grips with what to do with a permanently unemployed population, especially those in the service sector, who are being replaced, and will be replaced by automated cashiers, as well as those occupations tied to the workers’ comp industry.

If, as I reported yesterday, that 50% of all jobs will be gone by 2025, what do you do with those individuals who lose their jobs to machines and software?

It is a question that few have asked, and one that fewer have provided answers for. Also, what happens, as I also asked yesterday, if the 50% goes to 75% or higher?

The UBI is one idea floating around, but short of that, what else can we do to put permanently unemployed back into the workforce once technology makes them, in the words of that “Twilight Zone” episode, “Obsolete!”

It makes no sense, Joe states, to reform a system that won’t be around much longer. So, say goodbye to workers’ comp, say goodbye to claims adjusters, occupational therapists and physicians and nurses in same, pharmacy benefit managers, rehabilitation personnel, return to work specialists, case managers, utilization reviewers and bill reviewers, as well as underwriters and lawyers.

The Technological Revolution and Health Care: On the Same Track?

Yesterday, I ran across an interview on Truthout.com by Mark Karlin. Mr. Karlin was interviewing the two authors of a new book, People Get Ready, by Robert W. Mc Chesney and John Nichols.

Mr. Karlin’s first question, answered by Mr. Mc Chesney, intrigued me and got me thinking of what is happening in workers’ comp, as well as what is happening in health care.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, automation and artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on the future of workers’ comp, and this is emphasized in Mc Chesney and Nichols’ book. There have been other books and articles recently on the subject, so this is nothing new.

But what got me thinking is that Mr. Karlin addressed the main question the book raises — namely that the conventional wisdom has always been that the more advanced technology becomes, the more beneficial it will be for humans.

Mr. Mc Chesney responded that convention wisdom said that new technologies will disrupt and eliminate many jobs and industries, and that they would be replaced by newer industries and better jobs.

Mc Chesney also said that they argue the idea that technology will create a new job to replace an old one is no longer operative; nor that the new job will be better than the old one.

According to Mr. Mc Chesney:

Capitalism is in a period of prolonged and arguably indefinite stagnation. There is immense unemployment and underemployment of workers, which we document in the book, taken from entirely uncontroversial data sources. There is downward pressure on wages and working conditions, which results is growing and grotesque inequality. Workers have less security and are far more precarious today than they were a generation ago; for workers under the age of 30, it is a nightmare compared to what I experienced in the 1970s.”

Likewise, Mr. Mc Chesney, continued:

there is an immense amount of “unemployed” capital; i.e. wealthy individuals and US corporations are holding around $2 trillion in cash for which they cannot find attractive investments. There is simply insufficient consumer demand for firms to risk additional capital investment. The only place that demand can come from is by shifting money from the rich to the poor and/or by aggressively increasing government spending, and those options are politically off-limits, except to jack up military spending, which is already absurdly and obscenely high.

Contemporary capitalism is increasingly seeing profits generated, he adds, not by its fairy tales of entrepreneurs creating new jobs satisfying consumer needs, (remember Mitt Romney’s ‘job creator’ line of bs?) — but by monopolies, corruption and by privatizing public services.

Finally, Mr. Mc Chesney states that:

Capitalism as we know it is a very bad fit for the technological revolution we are beginning to experience. We desperately need a new economy, one that is not capitalistic — based on the mindless and endless pursuit of maximum profit — or one where capitalism has been radically reformed, more than ever before in its history. It is the central political challenge of our times.

They are not the only ones arguing for such reform or revolution, Senator Sanders notwithstanding. In previous posts, I have mentioned the biopsychosocial theory, Spiral Dynamics, and the book by Said W. Dawlabani, MEMEnomics The Next-Generation Economic System.

Other authors such as Richard Wolff, and Robert Reich have written books about this subject, and like Mc Chesney and Nichols have reached similar conclusions. Yet, Dawlabani, accessing the Spiral Dynamics model, goes much deeper into why we got here and what we need to do to get out of it.

Such a future version of capitalism has been called by many different names that I have come across in the past decade or so. Natural Capitalism, conscious capitalism, and so on, to name a few. But the main point is as Mc Chesney and Nichols points out in their book, the technological revolution, rather than liberating humans and making our lives better, as Mc Chesney says in the interview, may have the perverse effect of reinforcing its stagnating tendency.

An issue related to automation and artificial intelligence and its impact on the future of work, is if we are all replaced by machines and software, how will people be able to live? How will the goods and services produced by automation be sold, and to whom? Only those who are fortunate to have employment in jobs that machines cannot do? Or will we have to go back to a time when money was only the purview of those who had it?

The answer to these questions have also been raised by those in the tech world, and one suggestion they have come up with is a national basic income (NBI), and naturally has already been shot down as a bad idea by those on the Right. I guess they really want people to be poor.

But this idea should be kept on the back burner for now, as given the political climate in this country, that idea will be dead on arrival. Yet, while many have acknowledged what Mc Chesney, Nichols and others have said is happening, the other side — namely the current Speaker of the House and others in his party, have doubled down on their stubborn adherence to the rantings of a two-bit novelist, Ayn Rand and Ayn Randism.

Which brings me to the other point I wish to discuss, and that bears on what happens in the overall economy at large.

If automation and artificial intelligence will lead to elimination of many, if not all jobs, and if that will require a new economy as Mc Chesney and Nichols, and others have argued, what does that mean for the health care industry that seems to be going in the opposite direction?

Even before the enactment of the ACA, health care has become more centralized, bureaucratic, consolidated and more profit-driven than ever. The ACA in many ways has accelerated this process, and the direction it is headed is towards a more consumer-driven form of health care, and one where large hospital systems have integrated physicians and insurance services into their business plan.

The move among some physicians and physician practices towards concierge medicine, also is a sign that health care is moving towards a more capitalistic health care, in that it creates two classes — those who can afford concierge medicine, and those who cannot.

The transition to a new economy will not happen overnight, and may not happen for some time, especially if the forces aligned against it remain strongly opposed to reform. But if the health care system collapses, as I mentioned previously in articles last week, then along with the stagnation of capitalism generally, there will be an opportunity to move in that direction in health care as well.

Calling for ‘Medicare for All’ now with firm opposition to anything that spends government money or has a social benefit other than producing profit for a few, is only a waste of time and a con job.

There are only two ways an economic system and its attendant political system changes; by revolution or evolution. One is violent and bloody, the other happens because the old is replaced by the new so seamlessly that no one gets too emotional when it happens. An election does not do that, especially when the opposition is headed toward fascism.

That issue is for another time and place, and the rest of Mc Chesney and Nichols’ book discusses the current presidential campaign. I wanted to discuss the dichotomy between where capitalism is headed and where health care is headed, and at some point, health care will have to fall in line with the new capitalism.


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

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