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Health and access to care among employed and unemployed adults; United States, 2009-2010
  • Published Date:
    January 2012
Filetype[PDF - 4.64 MB]

  • Personal Authors:
  • Corporate Authors:
    National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.) ; Driscoll, Anne K ;
  • Pubmed ID:
  • Series:
    NCHS data brief ; no. 83
    DHHS publication ; no. (PHS) 2012-1209
  • Document Type:
  • Description:
    Lack of health insurance has been shown to be associated with problems obtaining needed health care (3), and the unemployed are less likely to have health insurance than are their employed counterparts. The number and rate of adults aged 18–64 years lacking health insurance has been increasing, in part due to the historically high unemployment rates. However, even having comprehensive health insurance coverage does not guarantee access to needed services, in part because of cost-sharing, including copayments and deductibles. Unemployed persons may retain their health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) or through other programs, but COBRA payments in particular may be quite expensive, and individual insurance plans may be less comprehensive than many employer-sponsored plans (4). Thus, although some unemployed adults may retain coverage for some period of time, they may be less able to meet cost-sharing requirements because of reduced income associated with unemployment. This analysis compares the health status and access to care of employed and unemployed adults and shows that unemployment is associated with unfavorable health and access to care among adults in the labor force over and above the loss of health insurance. However, it is not possible to know from these data the extent to which unemployment is a cause or effect of poor health. Poor health may be both a cause and effect of unemployment. Adults with private health insurance were more likely to have serious psychological distress and respondent-reported fair or poor health status if they were unemployed. In fact, unemployed privately insured persons were more than three times as likely to have serious psychological distress as their employed counterparts. Similar patterns were found for adults with public insurance and no health insurance. There were no significant differences between employed and unemployed adults in the percentage who had ever been diagnosed with selected chronic conditions, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer (NCHS unpublished analysis of NHIS data), and so the need for health care to treat these chronic conditions exists for both employed and unemployed adults. In addition to having poorer health, unemployed adults were more likely to delay or not receive needed medical care and needed prescriptions due to cost than their employed counterparts across categories of insurance coverage. Thus, the unemployed reported both worse health and less access to needed care and treatment than employed adults. This pattern was found not only for those without health insurance but also those with public and private insurance.