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Individual Health Insurance Difficult To Purchase For Many

March 16, 2011

The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare advocacy group, released a report today claiming 71 percent of an estimated 26 million people attempting to purchase health insurance on the individual market in the last three years faced roadblocks or were turned down due to prior medical conditions, Reuters reports.

Karen Davis, Commonwealth Fund president, explains the report is a measure of the effectiveness of the healthcare overhaul legislation, known as the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“It tells a story of a continuing deterioration of healthcare accessibility, efficiency, safety and affordability over the past decade despite the fact that we spend more than any other country on healthcare,” Davis explained to Reuters.

Nearly 35 percent said medical history was the reason they were experiencing higher premiums or denied coverage altogether. Joining the growing ranks of the uninsured are the millions of people who have either lost jobs due to the recent economic slowdown, or those with hours or benefits that have been cut back.

An estimated 52 million people living in the United States had no medical coverage for a period of time in 2010, the report said. In 2001, that number was only 38 million. Even with family healthcare available through one working spouse, researchers discovered nearly 9 million people with no health insurance coverage.

“This survey tells a story of millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the recession, lost their health benefits too, and had essentially no place to turn for affordable health care coverage””putting their health and financial security at risk,” Davis explained in a press release.

“The silver lining is that the Affordable Care Act has already begun to bring relief to families. Once the new law is fully implemented, we can be confident that no future recession will have the power to strip so many Americans of their health security.”

While some provisions of the new law are being practiced, it will not be until 2014 until some coverage requirements and new insurance exchanges for purchasing health plans go into effect.

Lead study author and Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins says, “The survey shows that over the last decade, increasing numbers of people across the income spectrum went without health insurance, avoided timely health care because it was too expensive, and struggled with medical debt.”

“Millions of working families reported making difficult trade-offs between paying off their medical debt, buying other life necessities, and saving for the future. The sweeping changes health reform will bring to the nation’s health insurance system will ensure that families will have the financial means to get the health care that they need, both in good economic times and bad.”

The reforms passed into law aim to provide health coverage for more than 30 million uninsured people. Republicans lawmakers however, claim mandates discourage job creation and are attempting to block implementation of the remaining portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Challenges to the law are slowly weaving their way through the judicial system and it is expected that the US Supreme Court will likely end up deciding the issue.

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