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Study: 758,000 In Connecticut Hurt By Breaks In Health Coverage

DIANE LEVICK

March 20, 2009

A quarter of Connecticut's residents under 65 758,000 people lacked health insurance at some time in 2007 or 2008, a roadblock to medical care and a sign that reform is urgently needed, according to a new study.

The number of uninsured, in a study that will be released today by the advocacy group Families USA, is far higher than the 326,000 census figure often cited for Connecticut, which includes 322,000 under 65.

The usual census figure only represents people who lacked coverage for an entire year, but many people are uninsured for shorter periods.

"Any way you look at it, it doesn't bode well for Connecticut," said Janet Davenport, spokeswoman for the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. "Given the unemployment figures and layoffs and economic crisis we're in, it's probably a lot worse" now than the 2007-08 study shows.

Nationally, about 86.7 million people a third of the population under 65 had no health insurance at least part of the time during 2007 or 2008, Families USA said. Census data showed 45.7 million were insured during all of 2007. Families USA uses census data in its calculations.

In Connecticut, more than 70 percent of the 758,000 uninsured 533,000 residents lacked insurance for six months or more during the two years.

"Our hope is this study makes clear why health care reform needs to happen now," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "Virtually everyone knows someone, whether it's a family member, neighbor or friend, who lacks or lost health care coverage."

The implications of even short-term lack of insurance can be dire, Pollack said. "It means that many people wind up skipping going to the doctor, or postponing filling a prescription, or not getting tests," he said.

As a result, conditions or diseases may not be diagnosed in a timely manner and get worse before they're found, he said.

Families USA reported that nearly 81 percent of the 758,000 uninsured in Connecticut were members of working families and another 6 percent were unemployed but seeking work. Some of the uninsured work for small businesses that can't afford to offer insurance, and some may work part-time and not qualify for it.

State and federal legislators predict the report will step up pressure for health care reform.

"The public policy implications of this report are enormous," U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said Thursday, calling it "one more red flag that we have to act on health care reform."

The report, DeLauro said, "provides new evidence that Americans and Connecticut residents are at significant risk of losing their insurance coverage, either as a result of job loss or unaffordable premiums. It shows that our health care system is on increasingly shaky ground for people who are working hard, trying to pay the bills, and cannot keep up."

Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D- Meriden, said state-level reforms need to take a "holistic" approach because people have different insurance needs. There are proposals already on the table, he said, that take a comprehensive approach and would assist the short-term uninsured as well as people who need longer-term help.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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