COVID-19 | The Uninsured and Working Class
As many of you already know, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11, 2020.
This brings up many concerns, including the effect it will have on the 27 million uninsured Americans, those who have very high deductible plans, and the working class who may not have access to paid sick leave or the ability to work from home.
In this article, we’re sharing what things look like for uninsured Americans during a pandemic, and what Congress is doing to help lower-income populations when it comes to fighting the spread of COVID-19.
How a Lack of Health Insurance Poses a Risk During a Pandemic
If you don’t have health insurance, you aren’t alone. Many Americans simply cannot afford it, especially if it is not covered through a job. But, what does this mean during a pandemic?
Those without insurance may be less likely to go to the doctor to get tested if symptoms appear, and lower-income populations may be forced to go to work when sick. This could pose a serious risk for the spread of this infection.
This also causes an issue identifying how many cases of COVID-19 we are truly dealing with in our country.
If those with symptoms aren’t getting tested, not only are they not being treated, but it leaves officials without the ability to identify those who may have come in contact with an infected individual. It’s a domino effect that can quickly lead to the virus spreading faster than it otherwise might.
Dealing With COVID-19 For the Uninsured
Steps are being taken to help reduce the cost of testing and treatment for COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has now included COVID-19 testing an essential health benefit that falls under the Affordable Care Act, which means those that have private health insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, will not be paying out of pocket.
As of Thursday, March 12th, the CDC committed to allowing free Coronavirus testing for all Americans.
Coronavirus & The Impact it Has on the Working Class
While free testing is moving in the right direction, another issue is those in jobs that don’t offer sick leave and those who cannot afford to take off work if they become ill.
While the standard right now is to stay home if you are sick or have been exposed, not everyone has the luxury to do so, and the reality is that in 2019, only 58% of those who worked in service occupations have access to paid sick leave.
However, on March 18, the coronavirus emergency relief package became law.
Qualified workers will receive two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members.
The package also gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of coronavirus.
Below are the qualifications of workers eligible for the emergency relief package:
- You must work at a company with more than 50 employees and less than 500 employees. This disqualifies 48% of the workforce, however small businesses which do not meet the 50 employee minimum can apply for exemption. Furthermore, 89% of companies with more than 500 employees already offer paid sick leave, and some like Target and Walmart are offering paid sick leave in reaction to the virus.
- Part-time workers will be paid the amount they typically earn in a two-week period.
- People who are self-employed — including gig economy workers like Uber drivers and Instacart shoppers — can also receive paid leave, assuming they pay taxes.
Businesses that are now mandated to pay for sick leave will be reimbursed for the full amount within three months, in the form of a payroll tax credit. For employers who can not afford to wait that long, the government has said it will advance the money to prevent small businesses from going under.
What The 8.3 Billion Dollar Coronavirus Funding Package Covers
The President has also signed an 8.3 billion dollar package in an effort to help combat the Coronavirus outbreak.
$3.1 billion dollars to help in the development of treatments. This also includes a budget for purchasing supplies like masks and protective equipment. $100 million of this money will also be put towards community health centers to be used for underserved areas. This is going to be valuable as more people without health insurance continue to need testing and possible treatment.
$950 million will go to state and local health departments. This money is necessary for things like overtime pay, hiring new staff, and buying equipment.
$300 million dollars will be used for treatment as well as vaccination development.
$1.25 billion dollars will be sent overseas to help contain the virus.
The 2.2 Trillion Dollar Relief Package Coming To You
The Senate has passed a $2.2 trillion relief package to help deal with COVID-19 and stimulate the economy.
Citizens making less than $75,000 a year will receive $1,200 from the government. Learn more here.
Navigating a Pandemic When You Can’t Afford Testing or Time Off of Work
If you don’t have health insurance, and you start to experience symptoms, here are some steps to take immediately.
- Contact your state health department about testing as tests completed by the CDC, or your city’s public health lab may be covered at no cost.
- Contact your place of work to inquire about what the current sick leave policy is and what steps are being taken to handle workers who may be sick and need to stay home. Many companies are implementing a work-from-home option in situations where it is possible.
Doing Our Best to Stop the Spread of COVID-19
As a country, we all owe it to our fellow Americans to do our due diligence to help prevent the further spread of this outbreak.
As we wait for updates on how to handle testing and treatment for those without insurance, and how jobs will be impacted for those infected with the virus, the CDC recommends the following:
- Staying home if you’ve been exposed or are displaying symptoms.
- Calling your healthcare providers office (or urgent care if uninsured) prior to your visit.
- Limiting visitors.
Doing our own individual best to follow these protocols is what we all can do to help slow the spread of this outbreak.
Online Screenings and Info Sessions For COVID-19
At PlushCare we are experiencing an increase of online appointments as people seek medical attention from their homes. By not going to the hospital, clinic or doctors office and instead seeing a medical professional online, people are helping to slow the spread of the virus.
If you are looking for more info on COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms, or would like mental health help due to anxiety or stress caused by the virus, we are here to help.
You can book an online appointment with one of our top doctors here.
Our doctors are highly trained in infectious disease and are adhering to all regulations coming from top epidemiologists and health departments regarding the handling of COVID-19.
Read More About COVID-19
Berkley.gov. America’s health insurance gaps could speed the spread of coronavirus. Accessed March 18, 2020 at https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/03/10/americas-health-insurance-gaps-could-speed-spread-of-coronavirus/
Fox News. Dem Rep. Katie Porter, in tense hearing, gets CDC chief to commit to free coronavirus testing. Accessed March 18, 2020 at https://www.foxnews.com/politics/dem-rep-katie-porter-cdc-chief-to-commit-to-free-coronavirus-testing
NPR.org. Where That $8.3 Billion In U.S. Coronavirus Funding Will And Won’t Go. Accessed March 18, 2020 at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/06/812964894/where-that-8-3-billion-in-u-s-coronavirus-funding-will-and-wont-go