The number of uninsured people in Texas has likely grown much higher after the impact of COVID-19, Community Health Choice CEO Lisa Wright said.

Data from the Texas Workforce Commission shows 1.96 million unemployment claims were filed in Texas between the weeks ending in March 14 and May 2.

"Many uninsured Texans make below 400% of the federal poverty line, and some work in jobs that typically don't offer coverage, such as cashiers, cooks, salespersons and janitors," Wright added. "Specifically, the entertainment, service, construction and retail industries will likely be most impacted by COVID-19 loses."

A May 13 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation projects 382,000 Texans will be within a coverage gap—meaning they will be unable to access health insurance—in January 2021, when employer-sponsored insurance and unemployment insurance benefits are likely to run out.

In addition to specific industries, those who are starting a smaller business or who are self-employed will also be affected by COVID-19 because they tend not to be ableafford insurance for themselves or any employees they may have, Christ Clinic Director Laura Hamilton said.

"Texas has the worst availability and take-up rate of employer-sponsored insurance," Wright said. "Another option would be to pay cash at a primary care office, but the patients we see here are primarily uninsured and can't afford to do that."

Health care and policy leaders also point to the Texas state government's hesitancy to expand Medicaid eligibility—as outlined by the Affordable Care Act—as a contributing factor to the state's large uninsured population.

According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1.5 million currently uninsured, non-elderly adults could be covered if the state were to expand Medicaid eligibility.

"Many people across the state are calling on Texas leaders to expand Medicaid to adults," Wright said.

The health care industry is collectively working to educate the general public and to urge civilians to continue to social distance and to monitor their interactions closely to avoid being overwhelmed and unable to serve the underserved communities.

"History tells us that we should expect a second wave in the fall," Hamilton said. "About 65% of our patients are very vulnerable to the virus if they get it, so we really prioritize keeping those patients at home and out of the emergency rooms so they are able to social distance."