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Survey: Majority of unemployed unable to maintain health insurance coverage Posted: March 18th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The findings from the Commonwealth Fund 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey provide a grim overview of the state of U.S. health care. According to the survey, 52 million American adults went without health insurance for at least a portion of 2010. Of those, 9 million became uninsured within the last two years after becoming unemployed.

Workers who become unemployed and lost employer-sponsored group insurance appear to face great difficulty finding new medical coverage. Only a quarter of the unemployed were able to secure health insurance from another source while 14 percent opted to continue group health insurance through COBRA, according to the Commonwealth Fund survey.

In addition to unemployment and health insurance figures, the survey also looked at medical debt and the rising cost of health care. In 2010, 73 million respondents reported difficulty paying their medical bills, up from 58 million in 2005. Approximately 44 million were paying off medical debt in 2010 compared to 37 million five years earlier.

Even for those with health insurance, medical costs can add up to a significant portion of the household budget. One-third of adults with medical coverage reportedly spent more than 10 percent of their income on health care.