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Sebelius: 1 in 6 Have Lost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Since 2006

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, September 14, 2009

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking before a University of Chicago forum on health and education, said the likelihood that families could lose their employer-sponsored health insurance is increasing.

Sebelius, who commented that the "health insurance system is broken," released a new report on the employer-sponsored insurance market that said that one in six Americans with employer sponsored insurance in 2006 lost that coverage by 2008.

In addition, 32% of working age adults and their families had a gap in health insurance coverage for at least one month in 2006 and 2007, and an estimated 87 million people were without insurance at some point during 2007 and 2008.

"Most of us get health insurance today through our employers. But it's easier to lose than you think," told the forum held on Thursday.

Among the other report findings were:

  • A family that buys insurance on the individual market pays about 60% more in out of pocket costs, such as deductibles and copayments, than a family that gets insurance through an employer.
  • About 75% of individuals looking for coverage on the individual market never bought a plan, with 61% of those who did not purchase the insurance citing premium cost as the primary reason.
  • Young adults (18 34) with employer coverage are more likely to lose coverage than older adults (35 64). One in five younger adults lost coverage over the course of two years.
  • About 91% of young workers who lost coverage became uninsured, and only 9% of those who became uninsured found insurance on the individual market.
  • Two thirds of the uninsured (68%) go without needed care—including seeing a doctor when sick, filling prescriptions, and following up on recommended tests or treatment.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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