End of free health insurance may push workers to seek jobs, experts say

Unlike every other recession in the last four decades, workers are not flocking back to work even though most employers are hiring. 

Many low-paid workers still fear COVID and face serious back-to-work family issues, especially about their children. 

"The direct service jobs, retail, hospitality, restaurants; that's where employers are having trouble finding workers," said abor lawyer and former EDD Director Mike Bernick,"I think childcare and the continued uncertainty about the schools are a factor."

Add in poor health insurance, says UCSF medical insurance expert Janet Coffman. 

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"If you're a lower, lower income person, sometimes the insurance that you're offered through your job has a very high deductible," said Coffman. 

In many cases the deductible can be $5,000 or more which few low or modest income people have access to. 

"You're probably living paycheck to paycheck," said Coffman.

Consider this: for laid-off workers that had COBRA health insurance, the federal government was paying for it since last April. At the beginning of the month, that program ended. Many are being forced to move to Medi-Cal. 

"These folks look at what the offer of job-based coverage is and they might be better of sticking with Medi-Cal if their income is at the Medi-Cal threshold," said Coffman. 

Add to that, the frequent presence of significant health issues in those families. 

"We know that, on average, folks who are lower income are in worse health, that it's understandable that they're making the decision not to return to work on that basis and certainly those who have children," said Coffman. 

The best estimates are that in the pandemic, California alone lost 8,500 childcare facilities. Many parents struggle to pay for childcare.

"It's understandable that some folks say, 'I'm gonna stay home to do the childcare,’" said Coffman.

Given all this, we may soon see an uptick in return to work because disappearing government benefits may now force their return.