NU Online News Service, Dec. 6, 3:20 p.m. – More than 725,000 workers laid off since March have lost health insurance coverage, says Families USA, Washington.

The health care advocacy group reports that 345,000 workers lost health care coverage in September and October, as the number of unemployed and uninsured climbed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Those figures do not include the dependents who lost health coverage when their parents lost their jobs, Families USA says.

Families USA says it was unable to determine the number of dependents getting health coverage from laid-off workers from current data sources.

The group based its report on unemployment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau figures on the proportion of laid-off workers who become uninsured.

Under the federal Consolidate Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, laid-off workers and their families can continue health coverage for 18 months through their past employers if those companies have 20 or more employees. But workers usually have to pay the full price, and continuation coverage can be very expensive.

Families USA says 38 states have supplemented federal law by establishing COBRA-like health coverage for workers who are laid off from smaller firms.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of unemployed rose from 6.1 million in March to 7.7 million in October. About 784,000 of this 1.7 million increase occurred in September and October, Families USA notes.