I'm reprinting highlights of an editorial that appeared in The New York Times Saturday. It's frightening... and frighteningly realistic.
Workers who lose their jobs in the economic downturn typically suffer a double whammy: They lose their incomes and employer-based health insurance. Millions are forced to forgo medical care they cannot pay for.
The depressing facts are laid out in the Commonwealth Fund’s latest biennial health insurance survey: 9 million working-age adults who lost their jobs between 2008 and 2010 became uninsured. Most could not find affordable coverage from insurance companies, and some were turned down when they applied.
Of that number, nearly three-quarters delayed needed care because of the cost. They were sick but did not visit a doctor, chose not to fill a prescription or skipped a recommended test, treatment or visit to a specialist.
Nearly three-quarters had problems paying medical bills when they did visit a doctor or a hospital. They used up their savings, struggled to pay medical debts over time, took out loans, declared bankruptcy or ended up unable to pay for food or housing.
Substantial help will not arrive until 2014, when national health care reforms kick in, which provide subsidies to help millions of Americans buy insurance on new exchanges and expand Medicaid coverage. In the interim, Congress should extend unemployment benefits to help the jobless pay for health care. It should also re-establish subsidies provided by the 2009 stimulus package that helped laid-off workers stay on former employers’ policies while looking for work.