Losing your job is bad enough. But in the U.S., where health benefits are usually obtained through an employer, losing your job means losing your health benefits. Not a viable option.
In addition, purchasing individual coverage was not a viable option for most people. Seventy-one percent of adults who tried to buy individual coverage in the past three years, or 19 million people, either found it difficult or impossible to find a plan that fit their needs; found it difficult or impossible to find a plan they could afford; or were turned down or charged a higher price for coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
“This survey tells a story of millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the recession, lost their health benefits too, and had essentially no place to turn for affordable health care coverage-putting their health and financial security at risk,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.
More uninsured than in 2001
According to the survey, more people were uninsured at some point in 2010 – 52 million – than the 38 million Americans who were without health insurance in 2001. Not surprisingly, the lower your income, the more likely you were to be without insurance.
With unemployment close to nine percent – and many experts think that understates the number – that’s a lot of people who used to have health coverage, but no longer do.
Nine million lose coverage
The Commonwealth Fund 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey estimates nine million working-age adults-57 percent of people who had health insurance through a job that was lost-became uninsured in the last two years.
The survey estimates 43 million adults under age 65 either lost a job, or their spouse became unemployed, in the last two years.
Only 25 percent of people who lost employer health insurance were able to find another source of health insurance coverage, and only 14 percent continued their job-based coverage through COBRA.
Fifty-four percent of lower-income adults (under $22,050 for a family of four) and 41 percent of moderate-income adults ($22,050 to $44,100 for a family of four) were uninsured for some time during the year, compared with 13 percent of adults with higher incomes, according to the survey.