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Health Reform 101

with Lisa Zamosky

WebMD helps readers understand their health insurance and the new health care reform law. The Affordable Care Act is bringing sweeping changes to American health care. Lisa Zamosky is here to help you navigate the health care maze and understand how these changes affect you.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jobs Lost Mean More Uninsured

An estimated 15 million working-age adults lost their jobs between 2008 and 2010. More than 8 million of them became uninsured in the process.

That was the finding of a new survey conducted by the New York -based private health care foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, which also looked at the limited insurance options available to those out of work.

Limited Options for Coverage

The survey found that 25% of adults who lost their jobs joined their spouse’s insurance policy or found coverage elsewhere; 14% continued their existing employer-sponsored coverage through COBRA, the federal law that allows employees to continue group health benefits for up to 18 months after losing their job.

Those folks are among the fortunate. Not everyone has a spouse with an insurance plan they can join.

And for most people, COBRA is far too costly under the best of circumstances, but never more so than once they stop receiving a paycheck.

The private insurance market doesn’t offer much comfort for the out-of-work, either. According to the survey, in 2010:

  • 60% of adults who shopped for insurance in the individual market found it very difficult or impossible to find a plan they could afford
  • 35% were turned down by an insurer, charged a higher price, or had a specific health problem excluded from coverage.

The report goes on to say that when health reform is fully implemented in 2014, the situation will dramatically change for the better:

“Most uninsured individuals will be able to obtain subsidized health insurance coverage through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a state Basic Health Plan, or subsidized private health insurance coverage offered through new state insurance exchanges.”

Filling the Gap
In the meantime, the options for finding insurance or receiving needed health services are limited, but some do exist.

If you have a pre-existing health condition and have been without health insurance for at least six months, check into the government’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP). Costs and eligibility requirements have been eased to allow more people to enter the program.

CoverageforAll.org, a resource offered by the Foundation for Health Coverage Education (FHCE) offers a search function on its web site to help people learn about their insurance options in one convenient place. Go to the organization’s eligibility quiz, which will help you identify program information tailored to your specific needs, along with associated costs, a sign-up check list and links to every program available in your state.

At benefits.gov you can search for all of the government programs for which you may be eligible. You can also speak with someone by phone at: 800-FED-INFO.

And, federally funded health centers that treat people regardless of their ability to pay have locations throughout the country. Find one near you on the web site of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Good luck!

SOURCES:

Commonwealth Fund: “Realizing Health Reform’s Potential.”

Healthcare.gov.

Posted by: Lisa Zamosky at 12:58 pm

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