Job Losses During Economic Crisis Leave Millions Without Health Insurance

Job Losses During Economic Crisis Leave Millions Without Health Insurance

According to a new report from the Commonwealth Biennial Health Insurance Survey of 2010 and prior years, millions of Americans have been left with no health insurance as a result of the economic recession. Worse yet, those who still have coverage are struggling to pay medical bills.

The survey was conducted via phone interviews by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and involved 3,033 adults during the period from July 14 to November 30, 2010. The survey focused on the effect of the recession on adult health insurance.

Findings showed that last year about 52 million American adults found themselves lacking insurance, a startling increase of nearly 75 percent compared to the 38 million who were uninsured in 2001. A total of 43 million adults of working-age adults joined the ranks of the unemployed in the past two years, accounting for about a quarter of the work force. Among these less fortunate people, approximately nine million (57 percent) lost their health benefits (57%) an only one-quarter of them either obtained new coverage or were able to become covered by their spouse’s insurance. A mere 14 percent continued their coverage through COBRA. Many adults who sought to obtain individual coverage faced higher premiums, exclusions from their coverage due to a health condition, or were denied coverage due to a preexisting condition.

Results of the survey also showed that the cost of insurance coverage and medical expenses have continued to increase over the past decade. Americans who have health insurance coverage have been forced to pay higher deductibles in addition to having to pay deductible costs for routine procedures that were covered beyond their regular co-pay in the past. This has left millions among the unemployed not only struggling to pay medical bills, but forgoing needed medical care.

In 2010, about 49 million working U.S. adults reported 10 percent more of their income being spent for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs, compared to 31 million in 2001. In addition, 75 million adults forwent doctor visits, filling prescriptions, and went without recommended tests or treatments, with only about half of those surveyed reporting being current on preventive care. This accounts for a 60 percent increase in comparison to 47 million reporting the omission of medical care in 2001.

According to Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, the report provides a benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of the healthcare reform initiated by President Barack Obama. In a telephone interview, she stated, “It tells a story of a continuing deterioration of healthcare accessibility, efficiency, safety and affordability over the past decade despite the fact that we spend more than any other country on healthcare.”

Although certain terms of the new plan that has been signed into law are now in effect, requirements for coverage and provisions for purchasing health plans will not be in effect until 2014. The target of the new plan is to provide coverage for more than 30 million uninsured Americans.