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Unemployed face barriers when searching for medical insurance Posted: July 5th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

With 57 percent of the non-elderly population receiving medical insurance through employer-sponsored group plans, those who are unemployed often face difficulty securing adequate coverage. That's one conclusion from a recent issue brief published by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

According to the brief, more than half of those who were unemployed and looking for work were also uninsured in 2009. Of those, 68 percent reported they did have not medical insurance because they lost their job or could not afford health insurance.

While some of the unemployed may be eligible to continue their group health insurance through COBRA, this coverage can be cost-prohibitive. The Kaiser commission reports the average premium price for individuals through COBRA is $429 per month. For family coverage, monthly premiums jump to $1,170.

Individual health insurance may be out of reach as well

Health insurance for the unemployed is also available through the individual market. However, individual health insurance often has higher premiums than comparable coverage through group plans. In addition, in some cases, health insurance for individuals may provide limited coverage or exclude pre-existing conditions.

The report notes that in 2014, unemployed individuals should have more options to locate adequate medical insurance. Individual health insurance policies will no longer be able to deny coverage to adults because of pre-existing conditions--a protection already afforded to children. In addition, health insurance exchanges will facilitate the purchase of medical coverage with the help of government subsidies for families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.