A new report from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation working to improve the performance of the nation’s health system, has found that 50 million Americans are without health insurance of any kind. The lack of coverage is linked to the economic recession of 2008, in which many businesses had to make cuts to staffing in order to stay afloat. As unemployment rose, so too did the rate of those without insurance as many no longer had access to employer health benefits. According to the report, most of these people are unable to obtain coverage through any means, leaving them stranded outside of the health care system.
Other reports have noted that employers are not looking to make cuts to the health care benefits they offer employees, despite coming changes to the insurance industry, but the Commonwealth Fund’s report shows that the unemployed are losing access to health insurance. Usually, those that have recently lost their jobs can take advantage of COBRA, the federally-backed insurance initiative that offers affordable coverage. The coverage available through COBRA, however, is only meant to be short-term, and those that have had trouble finding work have been unable to continue paying for coverage.
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According to Sara Collins, vice president of the Commonwealth Fund and co-author of the support, paying for COBRA while unemployed is nearly impossible. Given the rampant difficulties faced by the unemployed, the Commonwealth Fund advocates a universal health care system that would extend insurance coverage to all.