Holy Christ, One in Four Americans Didn't Have Health Insurance Last YearS

Remember back during the heady days of the 2008 election—before the economy went into full meltdown mode—when all anyone could talk about was how fucked up our health insurance coverage in this country was? The news was all about how the current system was failing so many people, and even the Republicans agreed we needed health insurance reform. Well, it turns out we were right, because a new study has found that one in four working-age Americans were uninsured at some point in 2011. That's about 48 million people. Yikes.

Even though we were all so eager to fix things during the campaign, after Obama got elected and the Tea Party Death Panel campaign against Obamacare kicked into full gear, things went off the rails quickly. Suddenly it seemed like no one wanted any changes to what, just a year before, everyone had agreed was a terrible system. Well, now that the hubbub over Obama's attempt to destroy our lives through socialized medicine (or, you know, make a few changes to our existing system) has led the law all the way into the hands of the Supreme Court, this sobering new data might be cause for us to revisit just how much health care coverage in this country totally sucks ass—and just how badly things need fixing.

The study was done by the Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare nonprofit. They surveyed 2,100 people aged 19 to 64, and, of those people, 26 percent of "non-elderly adults" were without insurance for at least part of last year. Forty percent of people who lost insurance had previously been covered by employer-sponsored plans but had become unemployed or experienced other types of job changes. Of the rest, 27 percent had never been insured, and 18 percent fell off the Medicaid rolls.

Of those who lost their insurance, seven out of 10 of them spent a year or more without coverage—often because individual health coverage was too expensive for them to afford. Ugh. As you might imagine, not having insurance had serious implications for their health. Many of the uninsured stopped receiving even basic care, which of course includes important screenings for things like cancer and high blood pressure.

Of course some of this will be fixed by Obama's plan. By 2014, the President's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would extend coverage to more than 30 million people who don't have insurance, through a combination of subsidizing state insurance markets and expanding the Medicaid program. That sounds great, but it's entirely possible that law will be overturned by the Supreme Court in the next few months. Even if the law survives the court, there are plenty of Republicans in Congress gunning to overturn it.

So if reform doesn't happen, and we're left to contend with this current bullshit, then what? Well, the author of the study, Sara Collins, predicts things will only get worse as the economy grows. Terrific. Maybe it's time to sign up for that online course in becoming a magical folk healer. You can avoid insurance companies altogether and get paid for your services in pocket lint and freshly slaughtered chickens—you know, like they did in the good old days when America was great and the average person only lived to the ripe old age of 50.

One in four Americans without health coverage: study [Reuters]