An estimated 9.3 million American adults lost health insurance coverage during the recession, according to a new study by researchers at Cornell, Indiana and Carnegie Mellon universities.
The study found that roughly nine times as many American adults lost health insurance during the 2007 to 2009 recession as in the previous recession of 2001. Researchers also estimated that 4.2 million children under 18 gained health insurance during the recession, thanks to the government-funded health insurance safety net. As parents lost jobs and income, more children qualified for coverage through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Men were much more likely than women to lose health insurance coverage as a result of increases in the unemployment rate. Of adults estimated to have lost coverage, 7.1 million were men and 2.2 million were women.
Even for men who didn't lose their jobs, increases in the unemployment rate were associated with a decreased probability of health insurance coverage. This may be because employers dropped coverage, cut workers' hours to where they no longer qualified for health insurance, or increased employee premium contributions, leading to workers declining the offer of coverage.
The study relies on data from the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation and monthly unemployment figures to estimate how the unemployment rate impacted health insurance coverage.
The paper also includes a "thought experiment" examining the impact of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on the relationship between unemployment and insurance coverage. The results suggest that because of the health care reform law's expansion of Medicaid coverage for adults, a higher unemployment rate would not have a significant impact on insurance coverage.