Jobless Rushing to Healthcare

March 26, 2009
Special Feature

Although evidence is mounting that the recession is causing some consumers to postpone medical care or even eliminate it entirely from their budget, there’s one segment of the population that’s hotfooting it to doctors and dentists.

Although evidence is mounting that the recession is causing some consumers to postpone medical care or even eliminate it entirely from their budget, there’s one segment of the population that’s hotfooting it to doctors and dentists. These are the newly jobless and those about to be jobless, who are trying to get appointments for care before their health benefits are terminated. Most are seeking annual physicals, eye exams, dental check-ups, and other routine care they may have been putting off.

Because their benefits terminate fairly soon after they are laid off, many of the patients are in a race against time, asking doctors and dentists for appointments as soon as possible to get in before they are left without coverage. On the flip side, many doctors are finding that some patients are cancelling appointments for routine or follow-up care scheduled three or more months ahead because they will no longer be insured.

Workers who lose their jobs are generally able to pick up 18 months of insurance coverage through the federally mandated COBRA program. Until the stimulus bill was signed recently, however, that coverage cost a laid-off worker 102% of the premium for what was often an expensive, benefit-rich policy. Many chose instead to go without insurance. Since March 1, under the terms of the stimulus act, the government will subsidize part of the COBRA premiums for eligible unemployed workers, cutting the worker’s share to 35%.