Loss of Jobs Means Loss of Health Coverage for Many in U.S.

Majority report delay in getting needed healthcare and financial difficulties paying medical bills

MONDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- For American adults who lose their health insurance coverage when they lose their jobs, the majority remain uninsured, delay getting needed health care or prescriptions, and report financial difficulties paying medical bills, according to a report published online Aug. 24 by The Commonwealth Fund.

Michelle McEvoy Doty, Ph.D., Commonwealth Fund Vice President, and colleagues evaluated the effect of unemployment on health care. A total of 3,033 U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 64 years, who became jobless from 2008 to 2010, were interviewed in the Commonwealth Fund 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey.

The investigators found that the majority of respondents became uninsured (57 percent), with racial and socio-economic status discrepancies. The majority (72 percent) of respondents who became uninsured skipped a recommended medical treatment or follow-up test, did not get specialist of other physician care when necessary, or did not fill a prescription in the year prior to the survey. All adults who lost a job with health benefits experienced serious financial pressure because of medical bills; 72 percent of those who became uninsured reported at least one problem with medical bills or accrued medical debt compared with 49 percent of adults who were able to remain insured. In 2010 an estimated 58 percent of workers would have been eligible for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), with Hispanic workers and younger workers (ages 19 to 29 years) less likely to be COBRA-eligible. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 will allow access to affordable, comprehensive coverage.

"Because most Americans get their health insurance through an employer, many have lost their coverage as well as their wages and other benefits. The consequences have been devastating," the authors write.

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