Massachusetts insurance enrollment remains strong as unemployment spikes

Massachusetts insurance enrollment - American Flag, money and stethoscope
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The state has the country’s worst unemployment rate, but residents are keeping up their coverage.

Massachusetts insurance enrollment has remained strong despite the state’s unemployment rate, which is currently the worst in the United States.

New data has revealed that despite losing their jobs, consumers have kept their health plans.

The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) revealed new data last week which showed that overall Massachusetts insurance enrollment stayed essentially stable through May. At that time, there were more than 6.4 million residents of the state covered by health plans.

Inside that data, there were some small shifts recorded. For instance, private commercial insurance plans – through which 4 million people are covered – experienced a 0.9 percent reduction between March (the official start of the pandemic outbreak in the United States) and May. This represents a shift of 34,700 people switching off their commercial insurance. In most of those cases – that is, for more than 31,000 people – this occurred due to loss of employer-sponsored health plans.

The trends for Massachusetts insurance enrollment were similar across many categories.

MassHealth – the Medicaid program in the state – saw similar increases in its numbers to those decreases measured in the commercial insurance category. The CHIA data indicated that from April through May, there were 35,656 people added to MassHealth, representing a 1.5 percent rise in its numbers.

That said, although more state residents may have qualified for MassHealth coverage, that program made the decision not to remove anyone from its coverage as long as the pandemic continues. This was the case despite scheduled income status checks.

The numbers recorded in the state are significantly different from the rise in unemployment claims. For the week that ended on July 18, there were 505,000 people in the state receiving traditional unemployment benefits. By that time, federal data indicated that the state’s unemployment rate was the highest in the country, having reached a staggering 17.4 percent.

According to Massachusetts Association of Health Plans president and CEO Lora Pellegrini, the discrepancy between the state’s high unemployment and the low fluctuations in Massachusetts insurance enrollment can likely be explained by the many workers who have been furloughed instead of fully laid-off, letting them Massachusetts insurance enrollment - American Flag, money and stethoscopemaintain their employer-sponsored coverage while simultaneously collecting unemployment.

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