Funded on April 1, 2020

From 2013-2015, more than 3 million U.S. workers became unemployed and nearly a third were unable to return to work by 2018. Unexpected job losses can be devastating for individuals and families. However, a job loss and a sudden gap in health coverage creates an added layer of financial distress for households with costly medical needs. These households must absorb the costs of their health care needs or risk experiencing negative health effects.

For these households, Medicaid could provide protections from bankruptcy, housing insecurity, and financial distress from burdensome health expenses. Medicaid is increasingly recognized for its anti-poverty effects for poor and near-poor families, yet we do not know the extent Medicaid acts as an economic stabilizer for households affected by job loss or how it may buffer against the growth of racial and ethnic health disparities due to job loss.

 Using two national, longitudinal datasets, the research team will:

  1. Identify and characterize Medicaid enrollees who are transitionally poor due to job loss by comparing to other Medicaid enrollees, taking into account enrollment durations, key demographic characteristics, prior life events, and health characteristics.
  2. Determine the extent to which Medicaid protects households from the adverse health effects associated with job loss.
  3. Investigate whether the protective impact of Medicaid is greater for racial and ethnic minorities.

By assessing the implications of Medicaid access across states, this research can provide new evidence about the impact of state policies on the exacerbation of health inequities among already underserved minority populations due to job loss and during economic downturns. New knowledge about Medicaid’s sub-populations could help us better understand how those disproportionately vulnerable to job instability may utilize Medicaid.