COVID-19’s estimated impact on Washington health care coverage

After peaking in May 2020, the estimated uninsured rate in Washington State has dropped below pre-pandemic levels. The latest data from the Washington State Office of Financial Management offers a breakdown of COVID-19’s estimated impact on Washington State health care coverage.


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Uninsured rates in Washington State now lower than before pandemic

COVID-19's Impact on Washington Health Care Coverage

Weekly changes of uninsured in total population and among adults age 18-64


According to the report, in 2019, the overall uninsured rate was 6.1% for adults 18-64. By April 2020, the pandemic caused that rate to climb to 8.7%. COVID-related lockdowns helped uninsured rates peak at 12.6% by May 2020.

Lifting lockdowns brought a steep decline over the ensuing four weeks, with a continued steady decline that continues through May 2021.


“In the latest week of data (ending May 15, 2021), the overall uninsured rate was 5.5% (428,100, and for adults age 18-64 it was 7.8% (376,100). Both rates are lower than the corresponding rates before the pandemic.”


Source of coverage before and after COVID-19

COVID-19's Impact on Washington Health Care Coverage

Coverage changes among newly-unemployed as of May 23, 2020 and as of May 15, 2021


In May 2020, at the peak of unemployment claims in Washington, about 58% of newly unemployed workers were uninsured. Before COVID, just 8.1% of newly unemployed workers were uninsured.  

For the week ending May 15, 2021, the number of newly unemployed individuals who were uninsured had dropped to less than one percent.

The report states:


“The low uninsured rate for the May 2021 cohort is the result of a much smaller number of unemployment claims and a continued growth in Medicaid and individual coverage.”


Washington uninsured rates by county

COVID-19's Impact on Washington Health Care Coverage

Percent change of Washington county uninsured rates


Uninsured rates by county vary significantly across Washington. However, for nearly all counties, uninsured rates as of May 2021 are now below their pre-pandemic levels. 

Columbia, Douglas, and Skamania are the only counties that currently have higher uninsured rates than they did before the pandemic. San Juan, Lincoln, and Garfield Counties show the most significant drops in their uninsured rates. 

“Several factors at the county level could have contributed to the volatile changes in uninsured rates among the counties. These factors include the number of people becoming unemployed, the occupations the workers were in before becoming unemployed, whether the workers had access to coverage from spouse’s employment-based insurance, and variations in enrolling in other eligible coverage sources (e.g., Medicaid and qualified health plan through the Exchange) both before and after the COVID-19 outbreak.”