A new health policy brief from Health Affairs with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines the administrative burdens that can block access to some safety-net programs and, as a consequence, undermine a person’s health. This brief joins Health Affairs’ ongoing series of policy briefs on social determinants of health.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic downturn have further exposed the gaps in the United States’ social welfare system, including the often-byzantine bureaucracies that applicants for benefit programs must navigate. In just one example highlighted by the brief, even before the pandemic, only three out of four of those eligible for unemployment benefits actually received them, with significant documented race disparities already established. Since the start of the pandemic, news stories have reported frequent cases of crashing websites, confusing forms, and other barriers to those applying for unemployment benefits. Similar barriers have traditionally been faced by those applying