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Many Middle-Aged Residents Lost Health Coverage During Recession

If you’re middle-aged in California, you’re more likely to have lost job-related health care benefits during the recession and you’re part of a burgeoning group of uninsured in the state, according to a new study from researchers at UC-Los Angeles.

The new data on the uninsured can be an important tool for health care policymakers in California, the study’s lead author said.

“When you care about whether the efforts of health care reform are equitably distributed, then we need to know where we’re starting from,” said Shana Alex Lavarreda, director of health insurance studies at UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.

“This provides a good baseline for lawmakers to see who should we be reaching out to, where the outreach should go,” Lavarreda said. “Who are the uninsured in California?”

Highlights of the study based on 2007 and 2009 California Health Interview Survey data include:

  • Californians ages 45 to 64 were most likely to lose job-based health insurance coverage among the roughly 700,000 people who lost health insurance during the survey time frame;
  • The uninsured people in California grew poorer, on average;
  • Much of the growth in uninsured numbers was the result of job loss and a subsequent decline in job-based coverage;
  • The number of older uninsured rose in California, with significant growth in the number of uninsured individuals between the ages of 45 and 64; and
  • Between 2007 and 2009, the percentage of Californians who were uninsured, unemployed and looking for work more than doubled in all counties.

Researchers divided the study into four county groups, ranging from least-hit (San Francisco, Marin, Alameda counties, for instance) to hardest-hit (Fresno, Kern, Merced counties, for example. The numbers were higher in the hard-hit counties, of course, but Lavarreda said another interesting statistic came out of that comparison.

“What we found is that among these county groups, which all had different levels of being hit, we found the same patterns — where the middle-aged were much more often uninsured,” Lavarreda said.

Policymakers likely should first target those high-impact areas first, she said, but they might also want to increase outreach efforts to that higher-uninsured middle-age population.

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