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Younger Americans are more likely to lose their health insurance during the pandemic

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Roughly 3 out of 10 younger Americans say their health insurance coverage has been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey from TransUnion. 

About 33% of Gen Z (defined here as those born during 1995 or after) and 29% of millennials (those born between 1980-1994) had their health insurance impacted by the pandemic, including losing coverage, according to a survey TransUnion Healthcare conducted last month of more than 3,000 people who visited a hospital, health-care clinic, doctor's office or health-care organization in the last year. 

Only about 12% of baby boomers experienced an impact because of Covid-19.

That makes sense, considering that younger generations are the most likely to be unemployed or underemployed because of the pandemic, according to research from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Unemployment rates among Gen Z (defined here as those ages 16 to 24) saw a significant increase, jumping to 24.4% in April, May and June. That's up from a higher-than-average unemployment rate of 8.4% during the same period in 2019. 

About half, 49.6%, of Americans got their health insurance through their employer last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But because of layoffs during the pandemic, as many as 12 million Americans have lost their health coverage, the Economic Policy Institute estimates.

Beyond losing health-care coverage, about half of Americans say the current state of the economy has affected how they seek medical care, TransUnion's survey finds. Within that, a higher percentage of Gen Zers and millennials reported a difference. 

Yet overall out-of-pocket cost trends have not changed dramatically, TransUnion finds. The average consumer spent about $485 on emergency room visits and $5,002 on inpatient care this year, which is a decrease of 7% and 5%, respectively, from last year.

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That may be due to fewer Americans seeking care. About 44% of employed Americans have put off medical care during the pandemic, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey released Wednesday. Of those that deferred care, 61% said it was because of Covid-19 fears and 42% cited cost concerns. 

Additionally, 47% of Americans have used virtual care services in place of in-person appointments this year — almost three times more than last year (17%), Wills Towers Watson finds. 

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An average telehealth visit costs about $79, compared with about $146 for an office visit, according to a research paper published in May. But while telehealth could increase access and potentially replace an expensive urgent care visit with a virtual assessment, these appointments typically led to additional medical use, the researchers found. Only about 12% of telemedicine visits completely replaced an in-person provider visit, which could increase out-of-pocket costs overall. 

However, many times, telemedicine visits may be provided for free by your employer or your insurer, making it a "smart thing" to look into using before heading into the doctor's office, says Tracy Watts, a senior consultant with Mercer.

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