Impact of Coronavirus on Personal Health,Economic and Food Security, and Medicaid

Key Findings:

  • Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are deferring medical care. Nearly half of adults (48%) say they or someone in their household have postponed or skipped medical care due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, as stay-at-home restrictions ease, most (68% of those who delayed care, or 32% of all adults) expect to get the delayed care in the next three months.
  • About four in ten U.S. adults (39%) say worry or stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, including 12% who say it has had a “major” impact. This is down slightly from early April when 45% reported a negative mental health impact. Yet, women continue to be more likely than men to say it is has negatively impacted their mental health (46% vs 33%) and urban (46%) and suburban (38%) residents are more likely than those in rural areas (28%) to say coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health. Among adults in households that experienced income or job loss due to the coronavirus outbreak (who make up one-third of adults overall), 46% say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • Three in ten adults (31%) say they have fallen behind in paying bills or had problems affording household expenses like food or health insurance coverage since February due to the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, one in four Americans (26%) say they or someone in their household have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs since February, including 16% who say this was due to the impact of coronavirus on their finances. The share who say they have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs due to coronavirus is higher among those in households that have lost a job or income due to coronavirus (30%) and among Black adults (30%) and Latinos (26%).
  • As states consider spending cuts to address budget shortfalls caused or exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that many potential cuts will be unpopular among the public. At least three-quarters of adults oppose decreasing spending on K-12 public education (80%), police and safety (75%), and Medicaid (74%). Moreover, majorities oppose cutting spending on social services (60%), higher education (55%), prisons and jails (54%), and environmental protection (53%). Transportation is the only area which garners majority support for state budget cuts. Majorities of Democrats (85%), independents (73%), and Republicans (62%) oppose their state government decreasing spending on Medicaid.
  • At a time when many newly unemployed Americans may turn to Medicaid for health insurance coverage, a majority of adults (55%) say the Medicaid program is personally important to them and their families and about one in four adults (23%) who are not currently on Medicaid say it is likely they or a family member will turn to Medicaid for health insurance in the next year. This share rises to 31% among those who lost income or whose spouse lost income due to the coronavirus outbreak. Two-thirds of adults in states that have not expanded Medicaid say their state should expand the program, including seven in ten adults (72%) in those states whose household experienced a job or income loss due to coronavirus.

Nearly Half Of Adults Say They Or A Family Member Have Deferred Medical Care Due To The Coronavirus Outbreak

The recent stay-at-home orders instituted by most states to help curb the spread of coronavirus impacted most industries, including the health care sector. Many hospitals and medical care providers closed for non-emergency services and many patients with non-emergency conditions postponed or cancelled appointments.1 2 The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds that nearly half of adults (48%) say they or someone in their household have postponed or skipped medical care due to the coronavirus outbreak, including a higher share of women than men (54% vs. 42%). Notably, 11% of adults overall say their or their family member’s condition got worse as a result of postponing or skipping medical care due to coronavirus.

Figure 1: About Half Of The Public Says They Have Skipped Or Postponed Medical Care Because Of The Coronavirus Outbreak

Among those who say they or a family member have postponed or delayed medical care because of coronavirus, almost all say they will eventually get the care that has been postponed, including 68% (32% of adults overall) who expect to get the care within the next 3 months.

Figure 2: About A Third Say They Skipped Or Postponed Medical Care Due To The Coronavirus But Will Get Needed Care In Next Few Months

Despite nearly half of adults saying that they or a member of their household has deferred medical care due to coronavirus, most adults (86%) and at least eight in ten across age groups, say their physical health has “stayed about the same” since the outbreak began. Few adults say their physical health has gotten better (6%) and a similar share say their physical health has gotten worse (8%) since the coronavirus outbreak began in the U.S.

Figure 3: Vast Majorities Across Age Groups Say Their Physical Health Has Stayed About The Same Since The Coronavirus Pandemic Began

Though few Americans say their physical health has worsened, nearly four in ten (39%) say that worry or stress related to coronavirus has had a negative effect on their mental health. The share of adults who say coronavirus has had a “major” impact on their mental health (12%) has decreased slightly from early April (19%).

Figure 4: Four In Ten Say Worry And Stress From Coronavirus Has Had A Negative Impact On Their Mental Health

Consistent with findings in our earlier surveys, women continue to be more likely than men to say coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health (46% vs 33%). Similarly, those who live in urban (46%) and suburban (38%) areas are more likely than those who live in rural areas (28%) to say coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health. Among those living in households that experienced income or job loss since the coronavirus outbreak, 46% say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, including 13% who say it has had a “major impact.”

Figure 5: Women, Those In Urban And Suburban Areas, More Likely To Say Coronavirus Has Had A Negative Impact On Their Mental Health

One In Four U.S. Adults Say Their Families Have Skipped Meals Or Relied On Charity Or Government Food Programs Since The Coronavirus Outbreak Began

As the economic downturn continues, about three in ten adults (31%) have had difficulty paying household expenses, including about one in six who say they have fallen behind in paying credit card or other bills (18%), have had problems paying their utilities (17%), or fallen behind in paying their rent or mortgage (15%) since the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. began. An additional 13% say they have had problems paying for food while about one in ten say they have had problems affording their health insurance coverage (9%) or their prescription medications (8%) or have had problems paying medical bills (11%). Among those living in households that experienced a job loss or had their income reduced due to the coronavirus outbreak, about half (49%) have had difficulty paying household expenses as a result. This includes about a third who say they have had problems paying credit cards bill (34%) or utilities (31%), 28% who say they have fallen behind on their rent or mortgage, and about one in four who say they have had trouble paying medical bills (23%) or affording food (23%).

Figure 6: Large Shares Say They Have Fallen Behind Or Had Difficulty Affording Household Expenses Since February

One in four Americans (26%) say they or a member of their household have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs since February, including 14% who say they have reduced the size of meals or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food, 13% who have visited a food bank or pantry for meals, and 13% who have applied for or received SNAP benefits.

Figure 7: One-Fourth Say They Have Skipped Meals, Visited A Food Bank, Or Have Applied For Or Received SNAP Benefits Since February

Overall, one in six Americans say that their experiences skipping meals or relying on charity or government food programs was because of coronavirus and its impact on their financial situation. A further 10% say they were already experiencing problems affording food before the coronavirus outbreak.

Figure 8: One In Six Say They Have Skipped Meals, Visited A Food Bank, Or Applied For Or Received SNAP Due To Impacts Of Coronavirus

Some groups are more likely than others to report difficulty affording food as a result of coronavirus. About a third (34%) of all adults say they or their spouse lost a job or had their hours or income reduced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Among this group, about four in ten (38%) say they have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs since February, most of whom (30%) say coronavirus was the cause.

In addition, Black and Latino adults and those with lower incomes appear to be harder hit. About four in ten Black adults (45%) and Latinos (39%) say they have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs since February, including three in ten Black adults and about a quarter (26%) of Hispanics who say their experiences were directly related to the financial impact of coronavirus. Among those in households with an annual income under $40,000, nearly half (48%) say they have skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs, including one-quarter who attribute this to coronavirus and a similar share (23%) who say they were already skipping meals or relying on food programs before the pandemic hit.

Figure 9: Large Shares Of Blacks, Hispanics, And Lower-Income Households Report Skipping Meals, Relying On Charity Due To The Coronavirus

Table 1: Skipping Meals Or Relying On Charity Or Government Food Programs By Demographic Groups
Percent who say they or someone in their household has done each of the following since February: Total Race/ethnicity Household income HH lost job/income due to coronavirus
Black Hispanic White <$40K $40 to <$90K $90K+ Yes No
Skipped or cut the size of meals because there wasn’t enough money for food 14% 27% 20% 8% 23% 12% 4% 24% 4%
Visited a food bank, food pantry, or charity for food 13 28 19 8 27 6 2 20 6
Applied for or received SNAP assistance 13 34 13 10 30 8 1 16 6
NET: Yes to any item above 26 45 39 18 48 19 7 38 11
Due to coronavirus and its impact on their financial situation 16 30 26 8 25 14 5 30 3

As States Face Budget Shortfalls, Public Opposes State Budget Cuts To Most Areas

Due to the recent economic downturn, many states may need to decrease spending in order to address projected budget shortfalls. Notably, eight in ten adults oppose their state government cutting spending on K-12 public education (80%) while about three in four oppose decreasing spending on police and safety (75%) and Medicaid (74%). Six in ten oppose their state government cutting spending on social services and slight majorities oppose cutting spending on higher education (55%), prisons and jail (54%), and environmental protection (54%). Notably, a majority of adults support their state decreasing spending on transportation (57%) in order to address budget shortfalls.

Figure 10: Majorities Oppose Their State Decreasing Spending On Various Public Goods, Including Medicaid, Education, And Public Safety

Across partisans, majorities of Democrats (85%), independents (73%), and Republicans (62%) oppose their state government decreasing spending on Medicaid. Similarly, majorities across partisans oppose decreasing spending on K-12 public education and on police and safety. Partisan splits are larger when it comes to state spending on higher education, social services, environmental protection.

Table 2: Majorities across partisans oppose their state government decreasing funding for K-12 education, police, and Medicaid
Percent who oppose their state government decreasing spending on each of the following: Democrats Independents Republicans
K-12 public education 89% 79% 76%
Police and safety 71 72 91
Medicaid 85 73 62
Higher education 72 47 43
Social services 70 58 46
Prisons and jails 53 54 53
Environmental protection 73 47 37
Transportation 44 39 35

With the sudden rise in unemployment following the coronavirus outbreak, many Americans have not only lost their jobs, but have also lost the health insurance coverage provided by their former employers. A recent KFF analysis estimates that since the coronavirus outbreak began in the U.S., nearly half of adults who lost their health insurance coverage due to job loss are eligible for Medicaid, the government health insurance and long-term care program for low-income adults and children,.

A majority of Americans (55%) say the Medicaid program is important to them and their family including 37% who say it is “very important”. Seven in ten adults with a household income under $40,000 (71%) say Medicaid is important to them and their family. Across partisans, Democrats (65%) and independents (54%) are more likely than Republicans (40%) to say Medicaid is important to them.

Figure 11: Over Half The Public Say Medicaid Is Important To Them And Their Family

Amid rising unemployment, about one in four (23%) adults who are not currently covered by Medicaid say they or a family member are likely to rely on Medicaid for health care coverage in the next year. Notably, about four in ten (38%) adults with a household income under $40,000 who are not currently on Medicaid, say it is very or somewhat likely that they or someone in their household will turn to Medicaid in the next year. Among households who have lost income due to the coronavirus outbreak, 31% say it is very or somewhat likely that they will turn to Medicaid for health insurance coverage in the next year.

Figure 12: Lower-Income Households And Those Who Experienced A Loss Of Household Income More Likely To Turn To Medicaid In Next Year

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), a number of states have expanded their Medicaid program. Among those who live in the 14 states that have not yet expanded their Medicaid program, two-thirds (66%) say they want their state to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income uninsured people, while about one-third (32%) want to keep Medicaid as it is today. However, within these states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, there is a large partisan gap on this issue with 89% of Democrats and 72% of independents preferring their state expand the program to cover more low-income uninsured people, while a majority of Republicans (58%) prefer to keep Medicaid in their state as it is now. In states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs, seven in ten adults whose household experienced a job or income loss due to coronavirus say their state should expand the program, while fewer adults who have not experienced a job or income loss say the same (72% vs. 52%).

Figure 13: Two-Thirds Of Those Who Live In Non-Expansion States Think The Medicaid Program Should Be Expanded

2010 Affordable Care Act

The most recent KFF Health Tracking Poll finds about half of the public (51%) have a favorable view of the ACA while 41% view it unfavorably, similar to the split in opinion since 2019. A majority of Republicans (76%) continue to hold unfavorable views towards the law, while eight in ten Democrats (80%) and a majority of independents (55%) hold favorable views of the ACA.

Figure 14: Half Of The Public Hold Favorable Views Of The ACA

Medicare-for-all and Public Option

Though the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign has largely concluded, the policy discussions on the how to best expand public health insurance in this country have continued as the nation faces a deadly public health crisis. KFF continues to track public opinion on both a national health plan, sometimes called Medicare-for-all, as well as more incremental changes such as an optional government-administered health plan, sometimes called a public option. A majority (56%) of the public favors a Medicare-for-all plan in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan (41% oppose), though a government administered public option continues to garner more support with two-thirds (68%) in favor a public option that would compete with private health plans and be available to all Americans (28% oppose).

Figure 15: Roughly Seven In Ten Say They Favor A Government-Administered Public Option While Over Half Say They Favor Medicare-for-all

Large majorities of Democrats favor both Medicare-for-all (78%) and a public option (84%), as do majorities of independents (60% favor Medicare-for-all, 70% favor a public option). Among Republicans, one in four (24%) support a national Medicare-for-all plan while more than four in ten (44%) favor a public option.

Figure 16: Majorities Of Democrats And Independents Favor Medicare-for-all And Public Option While Majorities Of Republicans Oppose


Endnotes

1 “During a Pandemic, an Unanticipated Problem: Out-of-Work Health Workers”. New York Times (April 3, 2020). https://www.kff.org/report-section/kff-health-tracking-poll-late-april-2020-economic-and-mental-health-impacts-of-coronavirus/

2 “Thousands of healthcare workers are laid off or furloughed as coronavirus spreads”. Los Angeles Times (May 2, 2020). https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-02/coronavirus-california-healthcare-workers-layoffs-furloughs

Coronavirus and U.S. Politics Methodology