Many U.S. Adults Faced Gaps in Coverage Last Year, Survey Finds

More than 25% of U.S. residents ages 19 to 64 had gaps in insurance coverage at some point in 2011, and nearly 70% of those residents had been uninsured for one year or longer, according to a survey released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, the Los Angeles Times reports (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 4/19).

Survey Details

The survey of 2,134 U.S. adults also found that uninsured U.S. residents struggled to obtain coverage through the individual market. Of those respondents who sought coverage in the individual market during the previous three years:

  • 62% said they found it very difficult or impossible to find an affordable policy;
  • 38% said it was hard to find the coverage they required;
  • 31% said they were turned down, charged a higher copayment or had a pre-existing condition excluded from coverage; and
  • 73% reported some type of issue when purchasing a plan (Bristol, CQ HealthBeat, 4/19).

A majority of survey respondents also said they had difficulty comparing plans' costs and benefits.

Those difficulties resulted in fewer individuals obtaining coverage, according to the report. Of the roughly 18.5 million U.S. residents who shopped for insurance in the individual market in the last three years, just 10.2 million bought coverage, leaving 8.3 million people without insurance.

Individual Market a 'Weak, Stop-Gap' Solution, Survey Concludes

The survey concluded that the individual market is a "weak, stop-gap" option for uninsured U.S. residents to obtain health coverage, U.S. News & World Report's "Second Opinion" reports (Sternberg, "Second Opinion," U.S. News & World Report, 4/19).

Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis noted that gaps in care and an inability to gain coverage can have "potentially serious implications for [respondents'] health as they lose contact with health care providers, skip needed care and recommended preventive care and screening tests" (CQ HealthBeat, 4/19).

The survey noted that the federal health reform law -- which aims to close the insurance gap -- should help resolve the issue (Fox, National Journal, 4/19).

Mark Miller
Health Care cost money and will never be free. If you think it is difficult to find the right insurance now, just wait until the feds get in control of it - case in point Medicare Part D. Unless everyone buys insurance, insurance companies must be able to underwrite the risk. Insurance by definition must spread the risk between healthy and sick. If only the sick buy when they are sick the cost will be very expensive by def. To make the leap "... 18.5M residents who shopped for insurance in the individual market..., just 10.2 million bought, leaving 8.3M people without insurance" is careless reporting. As a broker, I often get people shopping to see if they can buy insurance cheaper in the individual market as opposed to their group insurance. Because they don't buy does not mean they are not insured. 8.3 million is 2.8% of the US pop. Everyone in the US has access to health care right now contrary to what the press says; nobody will let someone die on the steps of the emergency room.

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