New Estimates on Job-Based Coverage Losses in California Highlight Need to Preserve and Strengthen Medi-Cal & Covered California

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 8, 2020


Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California,, 916-532-2128 (cell)


  • New UC Berkeley Labor Center study finds that for every 100,000 California workers who lose their jobs due to the pandemic, up to 67,000 workers and their families are at risk of losing employer-based coverage.
  • Over three-quarters of Californians losing jobs will be eligible for Medi-Cal or financial assistance through Covered California—but they need to sign up.
  • Yesterday, CA Department of Finance projected California may reach 18% unemployment. New estimates from Urban Institute found that as California uninsurance rate approaches 20%, our state is likely to see 3 million Californians losing coverage, an increase of 1.7 million in Medi-Cal, another 725,000 ellgible or enrolling in Covered California, and 650,000 Californians becoming uninsured.
  • Protecting and expanding coverage options vital to ensuring that those losing job-based coverage do not face a gap in care during a pandemic.  

SACRAMENTO—Today researchers at the UC Berkeley Labor Center released a new report detailing the impact of job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic on Californians health coverage. The Center estimates that for every 100,000 California workers losing their jobs due to the pandemic, up to 67,000 workers, spouses, and children are at risk of losing job-based coverage. The report also estimates that most of these workers (over three-quarters) will likely be income-eligible for Medi-Cal or subsidized insurance through Covered California.

These projections are based on workers in the industries with the highest risk of job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic including those in hospitality, retail, arts, sports, landscaping and transportation services. These workers were approximately 16% of the California workforce in 2018.

This report joins with other new estimates from the Urban Institute on the scenarios of coverage losses under different unemployment models. As we learned yesterday, the California Department of Finance is projecting an 18% unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Urban Institute estimates that with unemployment at 20%, Over 3 million Californians will lose their job-based coverage, Medi-Cal enrollment could increase by 1.7 million, Covered California would see an increase of 725,000, and an additional 650,000 Californians could become uninsured.

“The numbers in these reports highlight how important Medi-Cal and Covered California are, now more than ever, so Californians have health insurance options outside of job-based coverage. As millions of Californians lose employment, income, and coverage, our policymakers need to take actions to ensure that Californians do not lose their health insurance during a pandemic,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California must continue its commitment to the state subsidies provided in Covered California that will help make care more affordable for those now needing to enroll. As Medi-Cal rolls grow, our investment in the program must grow with it. Protecting and investing in Medi-Cal and Covered California is not just the right thing to do, it’s what will help get us out of this public health crisis.”

“These numbers show the magnitude of this crisis, and show that California can’t get out of this alone; states will need significant federal investment to sustain our safety net programs,” continued Wright. “California is facing a $54 billion budget shortfall that, without federal intervention, will force major cuts to our health care at the exactly the time we need it most. Congress must take urgent action to help states prevent catastrophic and counterproductive cuts, that would otherwise stymie our recovery efforts – both for our public health and our economy.”


Health Access Letter: Health Care State Budget Decisions to Protect California Consumers in Response to COVID-19 

CA Coalition Letter to Congress (April 15, 2020)

Health Access Letter to Congress (May 1, 2020)

Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19

Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: