I've written before about health care insurance and the 46 million people in this country who don't have it.
Some can receive coverage via medicaid, or medicare, if over the age of 65 (in most cases but some can receive medicare at a younger age, depending on circumstances). Others can receive health insurance by paying via COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act that was passed in 1985)- this is an insurance policy that allows you to continue coverage for a certain amount of time after leaving or losing your job. The problem with COBRA is that is costs a huge amount, every month. When one is unemployed, it becomes a catch-22. You can still get health coverage, but you have no money to pay for it.
For most people with families, their first concern when laid off is getting another job quickly, and figuring out how to pay the bills in the meantime. But the next looming issue with them is their lack of health insurance. A simple accident or bout of appendicitis can result in a bill of $30,000 very easily.
Unemployment is at a 16 year high and today alone, January 26th, 2009, has seen 68,000 people lose their jobs. A black Monday, indeed.
Only about 10% of laid-off employees actually keep their health coverage via COBRA even though approximately 65% would qualify for it. The reason - cost. And COBRA costs are getting even higher. Employers usually pay for up to 80% of an employees health insurance costs and the employee pays the difference. With COBRA the ex-employee pays for everything. And they must sign up for COBRA benefits within a 60 day window.
Unless one has a spouse with coverage, there will be extremely difficult times ahead and research has showed that only about 14% of people who lose their jobs can get new insurance through their spouse.
So what does a person do?
Many stop taking medications, some end up bankrupt (medical bankruptcy is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in this country) some lose their homes and some end up with astronomical medical bills that they will likely never be able to pay off. Some may face a worse fate like serious illness or ultimately an early death due to lack of health care. The lucky ones get a new job that offers health insurance.
For more information on COBRA, click here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm
For more information on medicaid, medicare and how to find health care for your children, click here for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/
Have you (or someone you know) ever used COBRA or Medicaid? How did it work for you?