WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly three-quarters of
jobless Americans say they can't afford needed health care or
prescription drugs, and about half say they're struggling with
medical bills or medical debt, a new report reveals.
Sixty percent of working Americans rely on employer-based health
insurance, so when 15 million working-age adults lost their jobs
between 2008 and 2010, an estimated 9 million also lost their
health insurance, according to the Commonwealth Fund report.
The authors of the report also concluded that when the major
provisions of the Obama Administration's health care reform law are
implemented in 2014, newly unemployed people will have many more
health insurance choices.
But the current lack of options have led to a health and
financial crisis for many Americans who lose their health insurance
benefits along with their jobs.
For the new report, researchers analyzed data from the 2010
Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey. Of the
respondents who lost their health insurance when they lost their
- 72 percent said they couldn't afford to: fill a prescription;
get a recommended test, treatment or follow-up; go to a doctor or
clinic for a medical problem, or get specialist care.
- 72 percent said they had problems with medical bills,
including: an inability to pay; having to make payments over time
to clear up medical debt; being contacted by collections agencies
over unpaid bills; and changing their way of life to pay medical
- 40 percent said medical bills forced them into difficult
financial tradeoffs in the past year, such as: 32 percent had used
up all their savings; 27 percent couldn't pay for basic necessities
such as food, heat or rent; 14 percent accumulated credit card
debt; and 9 percent took out a home loan.
"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," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a fund news release.
But she added that "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."
In 2014, Medicaid will be expanded to cover single adults
earning up to $14,484 a year and families of four making up to
$29,726 a year. There will also be sliding scale premium tax
credits for single adults earning up to $43,560 a year and families
of four making up to $89,400 a year to obtain private policies
through new state insurance exchanges.
People who buy health insurance through the exchanges will be
protected against high premiums and won't be able to get turned
down due to existing health issues, the authors of the report
pointed out in the news release.
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation supporting
independent research on health policy reform and a high performance
The U.S. Department of Labor outlines health insurance options
people who've lost their jobs.