The U.S. Health Insurance System

October 23, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 38
Will the COVID-19 pandemic transform it?
By Holly Rosenkrantz


COVID-19 sparked a recession and massive job cuts, which have cost millions of people their health insurance. An estimated 160 million Americans had insurance through an employer before the pandemic, and as many as 43 million may lose their coverage. The dramatic change could upend the U.S. employer-based health insurance system, as more people join government programs such as Medicaid or use tax subsidies to buy plans on Obamacare exchanges. But a contentious election campaign, in which health care has become an even more prominent issue due to the pandemic, could also alter the long-term outlook for health insurance in the United States. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden supports adding a public option to the Obamacare law, and liberals may push for a government-run single-payer system if the Democrats win big gains in the election. At the same time, Obamacare could face a significant threat in November when a conservative-dominated Supreme Court hears a new challenge to the law.

Photo of a trauma patient being rushed into an exam area at a hospital in Moreno Valley, Calif. (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Gina Ferazzi)
A trauma patient is rushed into an exam area at a hospital in Moreno Valley, Calif., in May. The entire U.S. health system is under great stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing consumers and policymakers to question the effectiveness of the traditional employer-based health insurance system. (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Gina Ferazzi)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Health Insurance
Oct. 23, 2020  The U.S. Health Insurance System
Oct. 18, 2019  Health Care Debates
Sep. 21, 2012  Assessing the New Health Care Law
Jun. 11, 2010  Health-Care Reform Updated
Aug. 28, 2009  Health-Care Reform
Mar. 30, 2007  Universal Coverage
Jun. 14, 2002  Covering the Uninsured
Apr. 16, 1999  Managing Managed Care
Apr. 12, 1996  Managed Care
Mar. 17, 1995  Primary Care
Nov. 23, 1990  Setting Limits on Medical Care
Oct. 14, 1988  The Failure to Contain Medical Costs
Aug. 10, 1984  Health Care: Pressure for Change
Apr. 08, 1983  Rising Cost of Health Care
Jan. 28, 1977  Controlling Health Costs
Aug. 09, 1974  Health Maintenance Organizations
Jun. 13, 1973  Health Care in Britain and America
Jan. 18, 1970  Future of Health Insurance
Jun. 20, 1962  Health Care Plans and Medical Practice
May 28, 1958  Health Insurance Costs
Feb. 17, 1954  Government Aid for Health Plans
Nov. 22, 1949  Compensation for Disability
Aug. 30, 1946  Public Medical Care
Jan. 25, 1944  Medical Insurance
Sep. 16, 1938  Health Insurance in Foreign Countries
Mar. 06, 1937  Toward Health Insurance
Jul. 09, 1934  Sickness Insurance and Group Hospitalization
Congress Actions
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Economic Crises
Employee Benefits
Health Insurance and Managed Care
Infectious Diseases
Insurance Industry
Medicaid and Medicare
Medicaid and Medicare
Medical Profession and Personnel
Medical Research and Advocacy
Party Politics
Party Politics
Supreme Court History and Decisions
Unemployment and Employment Programs