Loss of Job & Health Care Threatens Families with Financial Disaster

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Congressman Marion Berry (AR-01) and Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, hosted a conference call to discuss a report issued today by Families USA that analyzes the number of uninsured in Arkansas. The report estimates approximately 28,300 people in Arkansas lost health insurance coverage in 2009 due to a rise in unemployment.

“As we continue to move forward from this economic downturn, these statistics show the effects are still hurting many Arkansans,” said Berry.  “The loss of a job usually means the loss of access to affordable health care. These circumstances often leave families one medical catastrophe away from financial devastation.  In a country as privileged as ours, there is no reason for anyone to be forced into bankruptcy simply because of a car accident, cancer, or any other illness. This report is one more example supporting the fact that our country urgently needs health insurance reform that makes coverage more affordable.”

The Families USA report is based on the correlation between rising unemployment and the rising number of uninsured.  Most Americans, 61.9 percent of those under the age of 65, get their health coverage through their own job or that of a family member.  Job loss, therefore, usually means loss of health coverage because other options, such as COBRA and individual coverage, are often too expensive.

According to the report, Arkansas’s average unemployment rate in 2008 was 5.1 percent, while the average rate this year was 6.8 percent.  The Families USA report compares the percentage of uninsured adults in 2009 with the Census Bureau’s average annual percentage of uninsured adults for the three-year period of 2006-2008. According to the analysis, the percentage of uninsured adults in Arkansas grew from 24.8 percent in 2006-2008 to a projected 25.8 percent in 2009. This means approximately 28,300 Arkansans lost health coverage in 2009 due to increased unemployment.

“The loss of a job is a terrible blow to working families, but when health insurance is lost along with the job, it is a devastating one-two punch,” Pollack said. “The uninsured are less likely to get the care that they need when they need it, and they may face a financial catastrophe when medical bills start to pile up.  An economic downturn exposes the tragic flaws in our health care system, revealing that the health and well-being of American families can be put in jeopardy overnight, despite their best efforts and their best plans to protect themselves. It is clearly time for change.”

A copy of the Families report, “One-Two Punch: Unemployed and Uninsured,” is available on the Web at: http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/one-two-punch.pdf