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Jobless and underemployed scrimping on health care


MENLO PARK, Calif. — The unemployed and underemployed have limited access to health care and, in many cases, are putting off seeking medical care, according to the "Long-Term Unemployed Survey" released on Monday by NPR News and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

When they are sick or need medical advice, the long‐term unemployed and underemployed are much more likely than those with full‐time jobs to say they rely on a hospital emergency room or that they have no usual place to go for care (39% compared with 15% of full‐time employees).

This rises to almost 6-in-10 among those who are both unemployed or underemployed and uninsured. Correspondingly, more than 4-in-10 of the long‐term unemployed and underemployed said that they or another family member living in their household has had problems paying medical bills in the past two years.

However, the same amount of unemployed and underemployed visited a retail clinic, such as MinuteClinic or Take Care Clinics, as did the employed (3%), suggesting that there is a significant opportunity to raise awareness around the lower-cost healthcare services that can be found in those venues.

More than half of the long‐term unemployed and underemployed reported they had postponed getting needed health care because of the cost. Almost half reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment (46%), and 40% said they had not filled a prescription because of the expense.

While 85% of those with full‐time jobs reported being covered by health insurance, roughly half (51%) of the long‐term unemployed and underemployed said they had no health coverage whatsoever. Among those who did have coverage, the long-term unemployed were most likely to report getting it through Medicare, Medicaid or another government program (23%), while the long‐term underemployed were most likely to say they get coverage through their part‐time job or a spouse’s or parent’s employer (26%). Just 2% of the long‐term unemployed and 1% of the long‐term underemployed reported they had COBRA coverage from a former job.

Both those who are without any work and those who have been only partially employed for an extended period of time reported some specific health consequences related to their employment situation. Nearly 6-in-10 said they had difficulty sleeping or loss of sleep. More than half said they had gained or lost more than 10 lbs. as a result of being out of work, including more who reported gaining (30%) than losing (18%).

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