This morning the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is out with a study that shows 1 in 4 Californians now lacks health insurance:
Nearly 2 million Californians lost their health insurance during 2008 and 2009 – years characterized by a deep recession and mass layoffs – bringing the total number of uninsured in the state to more than 8 million, according to new estimates from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The number represents a 25 percent increase in the number of uninsured since 2007, when 6.4 million Californians lacked insurance, according to the authors of the new policy brief, Number of Uninsured Jumped to More Than Eight Million from 2007 to 2009. Today, nearly one-quarter of all adult Californians lack health insurance.
The study goes on to note that “working adults” have been hit the hardest by this, as they lost their employer-provided benefits when laid off and have had to choose between rent/mortgage and buying health insurance on the individual market. Not coincidentally, that’s the same market where health insurance companies like Anthem Blue Cross have been hitting customers with ridiculous, unaffordable rate increases.
The LA Times article on the report includes several stories of people who have faced significant costs to buying insurance and affording the health care they need merely to stay alive.
And of course, the other 75% of Californians who do have insurance often find it is not much of a shield against financial ruin or bad health. Many Californians are underinsured, and find that when a serious illness hits, their insurance doesn’t cover the full costs. Medical bankruptcy is still a very common situation, as is denial of necessary care, as is insurer “dumping” of patients by threatening to massively increase group premiums unless the sick individual is fired – and then unable to buy insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
As Congress works toward finalizing a health care bill this week that will go some way toward addressing these problems, though won’t eliminate them completely, we can expect California’s Republican candidates for statewide office to ramp up their attacks on the health care reform process. But it’s going to be very, very interesting indeed to hear how Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell justify the existing, failed, system that produces nothing more than bankruptcy and death.