Population Without a California Health Insurance Plan Rose Last Year

As of the end of 2009, over eight million residents of the state of California were uninsured. That is the sobering new finding from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Health Policy Research.

Their study determined that 8.4 million Californians were not covered by a health insurance plan last year. Those under the age of 65 were especially likely to lack health insurance, probably because virtually all senior citizens have access to Medicare through the federal government.

The criteria for the study included data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, 2007 and 2009 Medi-Cal and Healthy Families county enrollment information, and 2009 unemployment and household income data.

The situation has become more dire over the past several years: in 2009, nearly one quarter of California residents under 65 did not have a health insurance plan in at least one part of the calendar year. By contrast–in 2007–a still-significant 19.4 percent were uninsured at some point in the year.

Many experts blame the recently-ended recession. California was especially hard hit, being one of the centers of the real estate bust. As a result of the faltering economy, people lost their jobs–and with them, their health benefits. Although maintaining them through COBRA is an option, the cost can be financially prohibitive to some of the unemployed. Meanwhile, they may be making ends meet with several part time positions (none of which offer health insurance). If some financial pundits are correct that we will see a double-dip recession, the employment environment will further deteriorate.

Granted, California also has a large population of undocumented immigrants. Those individuals are unable to take advantage of federal or state programs targeted at the poor to provide them with health care, such as Medicaid.

What will healthcare reform do for them? Not much, at least not until 2014. The stopgap high-risk health insurance pools that were recently established may still be unaffordable for many. Hopefully, their economy improves.

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