Health Insurance and Essential Service Workers in New England: Who Lacks Access to Care for COVID-19? Health Insurance and Essential Service Workers in New England: Who Lacks Access to Care for COVID-19?

June 11, 2020
Key Findings
Over 50,000 essential workers in New England are uninsured, leaving them at high risk of contracting the virus and incurring significant financial hardship.

Among essential service workers, those working in non-healthcare essential service jobs are more likely to be uninsured than those working in healthcare (8.8% vs. 3.2% uninsured, respectively).

Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black essential workers are overrepresented in certain essential service jobs, including healthcare support, food service, and building maintenance, and they are less likely to be insured.

The coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the United States has highlighted critical pockets of vulnerability in our system of healthcare coverage. Essential frontline workers in particular face ongoing risk of infection and of infecting their families and others. For these workers, health insurance is critical. Healthcare workers, of course, face great risk of infection in this time, but another group of workers is also particularly vulnerable: service workers outside of healthcare settings, in industries that are deemed essential. In this brief, we analyze rates of insurance among essential frontline healthcare and non-healthcare workers across New England. In spite of relatively high rates of insurance in New England, there are roughly 50,000 uninsured essential workers across the region. These workers are at increased risk both of infection and of high out-of-pocket medical expenses if they seek care. Such economic risks may preclude them from accessing necessary care in a timely manner, with negative implications for their health. Essential healthcare workers are more likely to be insured than are non-healthcare workers. Within both groups of essential workers, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are clustered in lower-wage jobs with lower rates of insurance. This brief points to the importance of comprehensive and affordable health coverage for treatment of COVID-19 for essential workers and their families, who are putting their lives on the line every day in order to keep our economy running.

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