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Thousands of unemployed Washingtonians grapple with losing health insurance amid coronavirus crisis

In Snohomish County, the number of uninsured people has jumped from 7% to 13%, the biggest increase in the state.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — As if losing a job during the coronavirus crisis isn't bad enough, thousands in Washington state are now losing their health insurance, too. 

It's becoming an all too familiar story at clinics like Marysville's Sea Mar Community Health, which worries Dr. Audrey Gray.

"Mom lost her job. She's the sole provider in a household with two or three kids. Now, she doesn't have an income. Now, she doesn't have insurance. Stress is through the roof," said Dr. Gray.

The loss of health insurance in Washington is staggering. State statistics show just before COVID-19 hit there were 521,764 uninsured residents. At the end of April that number exploded to nearly 800,000 and is expected to rise.

In Snohomish County, the number of uninsured people has jumped from 7% to 13%, the biggest increase in the state.

More than half of the newly unemployed in Washington are also uninsured. That grim scenario will likely overload emergency rooms and free clinics.

Dr. Gray says it will greatly impact people who need to see specialists but will have to wait for months, with what could be dire consequences.

RELATED: COVID-19 enrollment period for Washington health insurance ends Friday

"Because if people are waiting longer for a surgery, or to see a specialist for a colonoscopy there will be adverse outcomes," she said. "I hope I'm wrong but I think there's going to be more adverse outcomes."

Fewer people able to pay for care could snowball into fewer clinics able to provide it, according to Janet Varon with Northwest Health Law Advocates.

"Right now providers are being very heroic and we owe it to them to support them in every way we can," said Varon. "This probably means additional revenue to continue the system to the extent possible."

Dr. Gray says she has even heard of a cancer patient who can no longer see her oncologist because she lost her insurance.

There is no easy cure for this health care crisis that continues to take its toll on America in so many ways.

"We're seeing a lot more anxiety and depression," said Dr. Gray, "and there are a lot more crises from that, too."

RELATED: Medicare applications raise anxiety for seniors in pandemic