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No Job, No Insurance, No Health Care

Workers who lose their jobs in the conomic downturn typically suffer a double whammy: they lose not only their incomes but their employer-based health insurance as well. Millions are forced to forgo the medical care that they cannot pay for.

The depressing facts are laid out in the Commonwealth Fund’s latest biennial health insurance survey. An analysis of the data found that nine million working-age adults who lost their jobs between 2008 and 2010 became uninsured. Most of those could not find affordable coverage from insurance companies, and some were turned down when theyapplied.

Of that number, nearly three-quarters delayed needed care because of the cost. They were sick but did not visit a doctor, or chose not to fill a prescription, or skipped a recommended test, treatment or visit to a specialist.

Nearly three-quarters had problems paying medical bills when they did visit a doctor or a hospital. They used up their savings, struggled to pay medical debts over time, took out loans when they could, declared bankruptcy or ended up unable to pay for other basic necessities like food or housing.

Substantial help will not arrive until 2014, when the major provisions of the national health care reforms kick in. The reforms will provide subsidies to help millions of Americans buy insurance on new exchanges and will greatly expand Medicaid coverage for the poor.

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