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COBRA Important Option for Unemployed, Commonwealth Survey Finds

August 25, 2011

About 15 million working-age adults lost their jobs and health benefits between 2008 and 2010, and a majority of those—57 percent—became uninsured, according to a new survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

Of those who lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs, about 72 percent reported not filling prescriptions or seeking the health care they needed because of costs.

Meanwhile, about 70 percent of adults earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($44,700 for a family of four) who lost their jobs and health benefits became uninsured, compared with about 42 percent of those at or above 200 percent of the poverty level. And just 8 percent of lower-income workers continued their coverage through COBRA after being laid off, compared with about 21 percent of those with higher incomes who chose COBRA.

“Clearly, COBRA subsidies made a big difference for millions of unemployed people who had no other option for affordable health insurance coverage,” said Michelle Doty, vice president at the Commonwealth Fund and a co-author of the report, in a news release. “As the economy continues to struggle to recover, extending those subsidies would assure that workers, particularly those with lower incomes, could maintain their health insurance.”

The report concluded by saying that the full implementation of last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2014 means that workers who lose their jobs will not also become uninsured. But the authors recommended that policymakers “will need to help bridge the gap to 2014 for the millions of people who are unable to find jobs.”   

Filed by Jessica Zigmond of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

 

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