Report: Unemployed workers without health insurance skipping needed care, prescriptions
It’s long been known that losing your job brings the added misfortune of losing your health insurance. And it’s no secret that those without health insurance are likely to skimp on care because of the expense.
A new report puts some eye-opening numbers to that phenomenon.
|Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund.|
About seven of every 10 Americans who lost their health insurance along with their jobs over the past few years said they skipped needed health care or did not fill prescriptions because of the cost, according to a report by The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit foundation that supports independent research on health care issues.
Furthermore, four of every of 10 adults who lost their job-based health insurance were forced to make difficult financial tradeoffs in the past year because of medical bills, according to the report, based on telephone surveys of about 4,000 adults ages 19 and older. The biggest tradeoff was using up all of their savings.
From 2008 to 2010, about 15 million adults lost their jobs and their employer-based health insurance, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Many of those adults were eligible to continue receiving employer-based health insurance through the COBRA program for up to 18 months, but many unemployed workers don’t have that coverage because they must pay the full premium. This left about 9 million unemployed workers without health insurance.
Sara Collins, a vice president of The Commonwealth Fund who co-authored the report, says in a news release that “once you are unemployed and uninsured, it’s nearly impossible to afford COBRA or buy an individual policy. However, when it is fully implemented in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will usher in a new era for the unemployed, who will have a variety of options for comprehensive and affordable health insurance.”
When the Affordable Care Act — the federal health care reform law — is completely in place in 2014, the public Medicaid program will be expanded, and people who buy health insurance through new marketplaces called exchanges will have more options for affordable coverage and cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Until then, Americans without jobs will continue to struggle to find affordable health insurance, the report says. About 60 percent of adults who shopped for an individual insurance policy over the past three years were unable to find an affordable plan, and 35 percent were turned down by an insurer, charged more money because of their health or had a health condition excluded from coverage.
“It’s clear from this report that losing a job and health insurance simultaneously is a serious threat to a family’s health and financial stability,” says Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund. “The Affordable Care Act will assure that families already struggling with the devastation of unemployment will still be able to get the health care they need and will be protected if they become seriously ill.”