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Losing Health Insurance, Finances, and Mental Health among Top Pandemic Concerns of DC Residents

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Survey reveals attitudes about the pandemic and its impact

(Washington, DC) Approximately 92% of District residents report being worried about the coronavirus pandemic.  More than half (56%) are concerned about losing their health insurance, and four out of five residents worry they or their family members could contract COVID-19. Three-quarters are concerned about their mental well-being or finances.   These are some of the findings of an online survey of residents commissioned by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (HBX) – responsible for the Affordable Care Act on-line health insurance marketplace in the District called DC Health Link -- and the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  The survey was conducted by ENGINE Insights in early October 2020.
What District residents think about COVID-19 and how they are impacted by the pandemic varies greatly by race, gender, and age.  The survey shows that overall COVID-19 concern levels are higher among African American and White residents (both 93%) compared to Hispanic residents (81%). In fact, over seven in ten African American (73%) and White (72%) residents are very concerned about the virus, significantly higher than the 59% of Hispanic residents who feel the same. Also, according to the survey, job loss due to COVID-19 pandemic has affected twice as many Hispanic (21%) and African American (20%) residents compared to White residents (11%). Losing health insurance is of greater concern for Hispanic (74%) and African American (59%) residents than for White (51%) residents.  
Nicole Quiroga, executive director of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said “The Hispanic community has been especially hard hit by the pandemic. We believe this survey gives us valuable information toward improving our health outcomes.”
The pandemic has now topped 10 million cases with nearly a quarter of a million deaths in the United States.  Communities of color have been disproportionally impacted economically and in death rates.  According to Dr. Leighton Ku, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University and an HBX Executive Board member, “We know African Americans and Hispanics are about twice as likely to have been infected by COVID and are much more likely to die.”
Residents also experience the pandemic differently depending on their gender and age. Men and women view post-pandemic future very differently.  Men in D.C. (77%) are significantly more likely than women (59%) to feel confident that life will normalize with an effective vaccine, and they are twice as likely as women (49% vs. 25%, respectively) to feel extremely or very confident about life returning to normal.  
There are also stark differences by age.  Nearly eight in ten (77%) of residents ages 40-55 are the most likely – and residents ages 18- 23 (62%) the least likely – to say they are very concerned about the Coronavirus.  While people ages 40-55 express the highest levels of concern about the Coronavirus, three-quarters (74%) are also the most likely to express confidence that a vaccine will bring back some normalcy compared to only 27% of people ages 56-74.
Topping the list of trusted sources to provide accurate updates on the status of a COVID-19 vaccine is Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who was cited by over half (54%) of D.C. residents. Locally Mayor Muriel Bowser/Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt (21%) is cited as a trusted voice like one’s personal physician (24%).   
White residents (43%) are significantly more likely than African Americans (31%) to be extremely or very confident that life will return close to normal with an effective vaccine.  However, Hispanics are by far the most inclined to express they are not confident at all (17%) compared to 7% African American and 5% White residents.
“The survey’s findings help us to better understand the diverse communities we serve, and that knowledge empowers us to be even more effective in getting uninsured people covered.” Ku said.   
According to Dr. Ku, DC has the second lowest uninsured rate in the nation.  DC Health Link has worked hard to get people covered and help residents stay covered, especially during the pandemic.  Ku stated, “A high rate of residents (67%) reported knowing they can enroll any time in DC Health Link.  Residents know that we are here for them when they need us.”   
Earlier this year, the HBX Executive Board adopted a COVID-19 special enrollment that allows residents to get insured through DC Health Link any time and coverage starts immediately.  All DC Health Link health plans cover COVID-19 diagnosis, testing, and treatment at no cost to the patient.  
View more detailed information about the survey.  
The Affordable Care Act provides individuals, families, and small businesses in the District of Columbia with affordable options for quality health insurance. DC Health Link is the District’s online health insurance marketplace which allows people to shop, compare, and enroll in coverage that fits their needs and budgets.  
Eligible District residents can enroll in a health insurance plan online through, or by calling 855-532-LINK [5465]. Some residents will qualify for reduced premiums. Residents who enroll on or before December 15, 2020 will have their coverage effective January 1, 2021. After that date, plan selections made by the 15th of each month during Open Enrollment will be effective on the first day of the following month. Small businesses – as well as individuals and families eligible for Medicaid – can enroll through throughout the year.