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Researchers: Loss of Health Benefits Hits Unemployed Hard

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U.S. adults who lose health insurance when they become unemployed are much less likely than insured unemployed people to get either primary care or specialist care.

A team of researchers led by Michelle McEvoy Doty, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, New York, has published that finding in an analysis of results from a 2010 telephone survey of 3,033 U.S. adults ages 19 to 64

The researchers found that about 18% of the participants had lost a job within the past two years, and that about 8.3% of the participants had lost employer-sponsored health coverage as a result of becoming unemployed.

When the researchers compared unemployed workers who still had health coverage with unemployed workers who still had health coverage, they found that 56% of the uninsured unemployed reported failing to visit a doctor to check out a medical problem because of concerns about cost, compared with 28% of the insured unemployed.

Similarly, 50% of the uninsured unemployed failed to get specialist care that they felt they needed, compared with 19% of the insured unemployed.

The researchers also looked at the reasons some workers who lost employer-sponsored coverage were able to stay insured.

About 57% of the unemployed workers who lost group coverage became uninsured.

About 25% got coverage through a spouse’s plan or bought other ordinary private coverage, and 14% paid to continue employer-sponsored coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) benefits continuation program.

- Allison Bell

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