Victoria Colliver at the San Francisco Chronicle lays out the severe impact of our economic times on health care.[UPDATE: I’ll be on the radio on this subject, on KQED’s Forum, from 9-10am on Tuesday morning.]
With the recession and the expectation that job losses will get worse next year, a growing number of American workers will find themselves not only out of a job, but without access to affordable health coverage. Already, about 46 million Americans have no health insurance….
“Even during good times, employers trimmed and scaled back their coverage. In these tough economic times, we have to be prepared for a dramatic drop in coverage when people are losing their jobs and thus their health insurance,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a coalition of grassroots health care consumer groups.
To make matters worse, traditional safety-net options – public health programs, clinics and other sources of care that receive government funding – are being cut back or threatened by state and national budget crises. Health services face major cuts under proposals made to bridge California’s estimated $41.8 billion budget deficit in the next 18 months.
LiveLong Medical Center, a group of nine Bay Area health centers that offer care to the uninsured, saw a 25 percent increase in the numbers of patients from July until the end of October compared with the same period last year.
“The number of uninsured patients knocking on our door is growing. That’s not something we budgeted for,” she said.
The article has a useful list of the range of (albeit limited) options for people losing their coverage during this economic crisis.
And for policymakers, this is a reminder that this is the exact worst time to make cuts to safety-net programs, like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, and providers, from community clinics and public hospitals. And that the need for major reform is more urgent now than ever before.