By Kevin Kelley
With the country in the midst of it's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, unemployment rates are reaching their highest levels in recent history, and with the rise of unemployment includes the rise of uninsured. Although employees can maintain their employer-based health coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), the cost is unrealistically high, consuming the majority of one's unemployment benefits, if not higher. In addition to the high cost, many laid of workers who are unable to afford health care will lose coverage altogether, and for those with preexisting conditions, it establishes a dangerous cycle, with the worker finding themselves in a predicament where no insurer would sell them a policy that will cover preexisting conditions at any price.
The inability to pay for health care leads to other problems as well. If the individual cannot afford to continue coverage, then they risk becoming uninsured, and they face the possibility of having to pay the burden of a costly illness. If they do pay for continuation, then they risk the inability to pay other obligations, such as house or car payments, which could lead to further economic endangerment. If you consider the average unemployment benefits versus the average COBRA cost, for families, it could consume up to 84% of their monthly unemployment income. For individuals, the average is lower, consuming close to 30%. Considering housing and food cost for the typical individual $800 per month, this leaves workers in a tough situation.
61% of those under the age of 65 receive their benefits from an employer. Becoming uninsured, those people are more likely to forgo medical care and develop a preexisting condition. Those who do decide to get help face medical debt, with 61 percent of adults who were uninsured at some point in 2007 having medical debt or problems with medical bills. If you consider that every time the unemployment rate rises one percentage point, the number of uninsured Americans rise by about 1.1 million. Considering the current economic climate, this statistic is alarming, considering the lasting economic impact it will have on these individuals, and the American workforce in general, when these workers eventually become employed. Both medical problems and medical debt will still be there, causing an extra burden on the middle class.
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