The coronavirus pandemic had a brutal effect on the U.S. job market, with tens of millions of Americans forced from their jobs, but because of the way our system is structured, those people didn't just lose a paycheck -- many also lost their employer-backed health insurance.
Precise figures are tricky, but a Kaiser Family Foundation report concluded that nearly 27 million people were at risk of losing their coverage as a result of job losses. The good news is, most of these Americans could turn to other options -- the Affordable Care Act's exchange marketplaces, Medicaid, the COBRA program -- to maintain coverage.
The bad news is, plenty of Americans fell through the health-care cracks once they were unemployed. How many? The New York Times reported overnight:
The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million American workers of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.
The study, to be formally released today by the non-partisan consumer advocacy group Families USA, is online here.
This is, to be sure, a brutal finding. These Americans and their families already suffered a blow with the loss of a paycheck, but the fact that they've lost their health security along with their economic security makes the circumstances that much more tragic.
It's against this backdrop, however, that Donald Trump last month threw his administration's support behind a Republican lawsuit pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. Its goal is simple: tear down "Obamacare" in its entirety.
If the case succeeds, and conservative justices agree to destroy the ACA, roughly 20 million Americans would lose their coverage, and millions more would lose health care benefits they've come to rely on.
In other words, more than 5 million Americans have lost their health insurance as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and the president, ignoring the advice of members of his own team, decided the best course of action is to try to quadruple that total.
And when, pray tell, will the high court hear arguments in this case? The Supreme Court announced yesterday which cases it will hear in October at the start of its fall term, and the ACA case wasn't among them. That means oral arguments in the case will likely be pushed to November.
For Republicans, that's good political news: many voters probably won't hear about Republican efforts to use the Supreme Court to tear down their own country's health care system until after Election Day.