1 in 4 working adults reports gaps in health insurance coverage

By Maryalene LaPonsie on May 15th, 2012

In 2011, 26 percent of working age Americans experienced a gap in their health insurance coverage. Of that group, 41 percent reported previously having employer-sponsored medical insurance. Those are some of the findings of a report based on the Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey.

The report also discovered many Americans find it difficult, if not impossible, to find affordable health insurance on the individual market.

Trends among the uninsured

According to the Commonwealth Fund, people with gaps in their health insurance coverage can spend a considerable amount of time uninsured. Of those surveyed who reported coverage gaps, 69 percent had not had medical insurance for more than one year. In addition, 57 percent had lacked coverage for more than two years.

The survey also indicates that low-income families are significantly more likely to go without coverage than families with moderate to high incomes. In addition, those with lower incomes are more likely to be uninsured longer.

While 57 percent of those earning less than 133 percent of the poverty level reported gaps in their health insurance coverage, only 12 percent of those exceeding 400 percent of the poverty level said they went without health insurance coverage during part of 2011. What's more, 35 percent of low-income families had been without medical insurance for more than two years, compared to 3 percent of high-income families.

Cheap health insurance hard to find

Low-income families may be more likely to be uninsured because individual health insurance plans can be cost prohibitive. The Commonwealth Fund found survey respondents experienced difficulty finding low-cost health insurance:

  • 62 percent said it was difficult or impossible to find affordable health insurance
  • 45 percent said cost was the main reason they never bought a plan
  • 31 percent said they were turned down, charged a higher premium or had an exclusion clause because of a pre-existing condition

"For people who lose employer-sponsored coverage, the individual market is often the only alternative, but it is a confusing and largely unaffordable option," says Sara Collins, Commonwealth Fund vice president, in a press statement.

The private foundation also notes those without medical insurance are less likely to receive preventive services such as cancer screenings, cholesterol and blood pressure checks.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.

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