A new research report from the Commonwealth Fund offers new insights into America’s uninsured.
The “Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of U.S. Adults,” which surveyed 2,134 adults between June 24 and July 5, 2011 and was conducted by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, found that one in four people between the ages of 19 and 64—about 48.2 million people—were uninsured at the time the survey took place.
Very few respondents reported losing coverage because their employer decided to halt benefits. Instead, the most common reason, according to respondents, was that they lost it after being laid off, changing jobs or taking a part-time job that did not offer benefits.
Specifically, nearly seven of 10 (69 percent) of those with a gap went without coverage for a year or more, notes the report. Of those who were uninsured at the time of the survey or were insured but had experienced a gap, 41 percent previously had employer-based coverage, 18 percent had been enrolled in Medicaid, 6 percent had a plan purchased in the individual market, 7 percent had been insured through another source and 27 percent never had health insurance. Among those who had employer-sponsored insurance prior to their gap in coverage, two-thirds (67 percent) cited a loss or change of a job as the primary reason; nearly six of 10 (58 percent) were uninsured for a year or more.
In spite of a provision in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that passed in March 2010, which created “high-risk pools” for sick people to buy insurance, only about 6 percent of those eligible tried to get coverage through the program.
Commonwealth Fund researchers surmised, based on the results, it appeared to be difficult for consumers to buy insurance (in its current form) on the individual market, citing close to two-thirds of the respondents who reported that they couldn’t find affordable health insurance policies or had difficulty due to pre-existing conditions and other medical history problems.
The researchers also surmised that the Affordable Care Act law could make it easier for people to replace their lost health insurance coverage. “Beginning in 2014, new affordable health insurance options through Medicaid and state insurance exchanges will enable adults and their families to remain insured even in the face of job changes and other life disruptions,” said the report.
The survey, facilitated for the Commonwealth Fun by Knowledge Networks, had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
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