Many Uninsured Adults Have Not Tried to Enroll in Medicaid or Marketplace Coverage: Findings from the September 2020 Coronavirus Tracking Survey

A patient talking with a nurse who is checking computer records.

Despite a rise in job losses due to COVID-19, nearly half of uninsured adults had not looked to Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces for help.

The Issue

Many uninsured adults were aware of publicly subsidized coverage options, but assumed they would not qualify.

Key Findings

  • Just 29.3 percent of uninsured adults tried to obtain Medicaid or CHIP coverage. Most commonly, those who did not try did not think they would qualify.

  • Nearly half of all uninsured adults (47.0%) did not look for information on marketplace coverage, nor tried to obtain Medicaid or CHIP coverage.

  • About half of uninsured adults (53.9%) heard a lot or some about the marketplaces; just under two-thirds (64.9%) heard nothing or only a little about financial assistance for marketplace coverage.

  • Almost half of uninsured adults familiar with marketplace plans did not look for information on them, most commonly because of cost concerns.


As the COVID-19 recession continues, this research demonstrates the urgency of raising awareness about available coverage options among uninsured people, educating them about eligibility rules and affordability, and helping them enroll in coverage.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.