Analysis from The Commonwealth Fund finds that in 2011, 25 percent of adults ages 19 to 64 experienced a gap in their health insurance with a majority remaining uninsured for one year or more.
Losing or changing jobs was the primary reason people experienced a gap. Almost half of respondents (41 percent) say they had employer-based coverage before they lost their insurance. Eighteen percent had been enrolled in Medicaid; 6 percent had a plan purchased in the individual market; 7 percent had been insured through another source; and 27 percent never had health insurance. [click image for larger view]
Among those who had employer-sponsored insurance prior to their gap in coverage, two-thirds (67 percent) cited a loss or change of a job as the primary reason; nearly six of 10 (58 percent) were uninsured for a year or more.
The individual market provides little relief to the uninsured, authors of the research brief write.
"In the survey, adults who tried to buy a plan on their own in the individual insurance market reported substantial difficulties finding affordable health plans that met their health needs. Of adults who tried to buy a plan in the individual market in the past three years, 60 percent found it very or somewhat difficult to compare the benefits covered by different plans and more than half (55%) found it very or somewhat difficult to compare premium costs. More than two of five (45%) never ended up buying a plan."
Those with a gap in health insurance were less likely to have a regular doctor, and weren't up to date with recommended preventive care tests.
But provisions in the Affordable Care Act are already helping to bridge the insurance gap, experts say. One is the young adult dependent allowance. This rule mandates insurers must allow dependent coverage for children up to age 26 who stay on their parent's plan.
Nearly half (46 percent) of young adults age 19 to 25 stayed on or joined a parent's insurance policy in the last 12 months.
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Other provisions, including Medicaid expansion, subsidized private health insurance through state-run health exchanges, and prohibiting insurers from denying health care to people with pre-existing conditions will also help those who can't find affordable health care.
"Together, these reforms mean that people who lose their health benefits will be able to turn to a range of affordable insurance options that will enable them to gain insurance immediately rather than enduring months or years without coverage, losing connections to their doctors, and indefinitely delaying preventive care that would help maintain their health," report authors write.
"The findings of the survey underscore the need for federal and state policymakers to press ahead with their work implementing the law."