A new study points to a major factor in the reasons the number of uninsured Missourians climbs as the unemployment rate climbs. Families USA, which studies family healthcare issues, calculates the number of people without health insurance goes up by 1.1 percent for every one percent that the unemployment rate goes up. That’s because the unemployed worker often has a family that also becomes uninsured when the breadwinner loses employer-provided insurance.

The study says that the average worker with employer-provided health insurance pays 27 percent of the premium cost. But when the job goes away, so does the insurance. Some workers can continue with COBRA coverage, a government program that lets laid-off workers maintain coverage from the ex-employers insurance program although the const is considerably higher. But Executive Director Ron Pollack of Families USA says that often is not practical. The study says the average monthly premium in Missouri for family coverage in the COBRA program is $1,049, just $34 less than the average monthly unemployment benefit check.

That’s almost 97 percent of the average monthly unemployment benefit and it’s why only 18 to 26 percent of the jobless employees use the COBRA program. Missouri is one of only ten states where family coverage would eat up three fourths of the average unemployment check.

It’s worse if the employer just goes out of business. There’s no COBRA program available then.

Pollack says the outlook also is dim when the person tries to get insurance on the open market because costs will remain high and it’s unlikely any insurer will cover a person with a pre-existing condition.


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