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Congress Can Provide Millions of Uninsured Workers with Health Care by Connecting Unemployment Insurance Beneficiaries with Health Insurance Premium Tax Credits

By Stan Dorn, Rebecca Dorn,


The version of the HEROES bill that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on October 1, 2020, proposed to connect people who benefit from unemployment insurance (UI) with advance premium tax credits (APTCs), which help pay for health coverage. In 2020, the Senate did not take up this proposal or any other House-passed plan to protect private insurance. Now under consideration for the next COVID-19 relief bill, this APTC/ UI provision would furnish much-needed health care to people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including many who are at disproportionate risk of contracting and dying from the virus.

Based on recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, more than 4 million uninsured workers rely on UI to make ends meet. They and their families would qualify for APTCs under the HEROES plan.

Nearly half of these workers (49%) are people of color. A quarter of them (24%) are Latinx, and one in six (16%) are African American. Three out of 4 (76%) are working-class people, who have no college degree. Two in 5 uninsured workers who rely on UI (39%) have minor children living at home. A third of these workers (32%) report not having enough food to eat, and nearly half (47%) have no confidence or only slight confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage.

Based on pre-pandemic data, UI beneficiaries in rural areas are 21% more likely to be uninsured than is the case for UI beneficiaries in urban or suburban areas.

Uninured, laid-off workers in every state of the country would benefit from the HEROES proposal. It must be included as a top priority, along with other important proposals to strengthen American health insurance, in the COVID-19 relief package now making its way through Congress.