MassHealth Enrollment Up More Than 5 Percent in Pandemic

DATE : September 23, 2020

Enrollment in MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program, has spiked by about 63,000 people since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Massachusetts in March, but the overall number of people with health insurance in Massachusetts has remained relatively stable and employer-sponsored coverage has not declined as fast as job losses might indicate.

The Center for Health Information and Analysis has been producing monthly health insurance enrollment summaries to provide a regular snapshot of how the pandemic is impacting access to health insurance. The latest report released Tuesday shows that from March through July the number of residents of Massachusetts with health insurance climbed slightly from 6.43 million insured in March to 6.45 million in July, up 0.3 percent. While MassHealth saw its enrollment climb 5.4 percent, the private commercial plans that cover more than 4 million residents lost only 1.2 percent of their membership, driven by a decline in employer-sponsored insurance. Fully-insured large group employer plan membership fell 1.5 percent from June to July alone, the largest monthly decline since the pandemic started.

CHIA reported that despite the dip in employer-sponsored coverage, the rate of decline has not matched the loss of jobs in Massachusetts that contributed to Massachusetts having, for two months, the highest unemployment rate in the country. The agency surmised that not everyone claiming unemployment benefits had insurance through their jobs, and those that did may have been furloughed, allowing them to maintain coverage or switched to a family member's plan. Many patients intentionally stayed away from hospitals and other health care providers during the pandemic and Gov. Charlie Baker has said that the state's most expensive program has also experienced savings in recent months because fewer MassHealth enrollees are getting ill with other viruses or infections thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing.

- Matt Murphy/State House News Service