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Uninsured patients in Mass. still mainly the working poor, despite state's health reform
Date:9/19/2011

y small firms exempt from a requirement to offer insurance; and the poor who could not afford employer-sponsored insurance even when it was offered to them. The system of coverage also failed those who lost their job, which is particularly problematic with the current economic downturn."

More than 85 percent of the uninsured patients interviewed had incomes low enough to qualify them for free or low-cost, state-subsidized private insurance. Nonetheless, one-third reported being uninsured because they could not find affordable insurance.

In fact, although the majority of the uninsured were aware of the new legal requirement that they carry health insurance, nearly half reported that it motivated them to try to find insurance but that they had been unable to find insurance they could afford.

Senior author Dr. Danny McCormick, an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, said: "It appears that for people with very low incomes, even state plans with subsidized insurance premiums may be too costly. Also, under the reform law workers who are offered employer sponsored insurance but decline it due to cost are not eligible for state subsidized insurance, no matter how poor they are."

McCormick added, "If we are serious about the goal of universal coverage, we will need to further reduce or eliminate the financial barriers to getting insurance that still clearly exist in Massachusetts."

The study also found that another common reason for losing previously held insurance was having had it cancelled without notice or because of lapsed paperwork. Only 5.6 percent of the interviewees were uninsured because they didn't think they needed insurance, suggesting there were few seeking a so-called free ride.

"Our study shows the many ways that patients can get left out of a complex system for providing health insurance," said McCormick. "While the reform substantially reduced the number of uninsured in our state, it failed to fully r
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Contact: Mark Almberg
mark@pnhp.org
312-782-6006
Physicians for a National Health Program
Source:Eurekalert

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