By Lisa Zamosky
The unemployment rate in the U.S. recently dropped just slightly: it fell by 0.4% in November to 8.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Millions of people are still out of work, which sadly in this country often means they go without health insurance, given that the majority of Americans still get coverage through an employer.
A new report out earlier this week by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation highlights the dire impact of job loss on access to needed medical care. The study included approximately 1,500 adults, a mix of people who were unemployed for over a year, those who worked part-time and full-time employees.
Roughly half – 49% – don’t have any health insurance. And more than half (56%) report delaying care they need because they simply can’t afford to pay for it. Even more disturbing is that 44% indicated that paying for food had become a struggle, which among other challenges, has also led to poorer health.
Family members of those without enough work and health care are impacted too – 75% said that either they or a family member had to put off care because of the cost. According to the study:
- 46% skipped a medical test or treatment
- 40% did not fill a prescription
- 18% had trouble getting needed mental health care
- 63% put off dental care or checkups.
Where to Turn for Help
Without income, paying the high cost of health insurance or medical treatment can seem nearly impossible. But if you’re uninsured because you can’t afford a health plan, you should not automatically assume that coverage is out of reach. In fact, an ongoing survey of uninsured patients who sought care in four San Diego hospital emergency rooms found that over 80% were eligible for some form of government insurance but didn’t know it.
The tool used by the hospitals to identify coverage eligibility, which I have previously suggested, is CoverageforAll.org, a resource offered by the Foundation for Health Coverage Education. A five-question quiz housed on the Foundation’s website will bring up all of your low-cost public and private insurance options.
Also take a look at community health centers in your area, which charge for medical services on a sliding scale. These centers got a financial boost under the health reform law to enable them to expand and provide medical care to an additional 20 million people across the country.
To find a center in your area, check the Health Resources and Services Administration web site. Your state and local public health departments are also a good place to look.
Tell us how you’re doing. Have you lost health insurance coverage due to job loss? If so, how are you coping?