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Paying For Health Care is Difficult for the Unemployed

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Aired 4/19/09

With California unemployment rates at an all-time high, people are facing a double whammy -- losing their job and their health care.  A new report finds it will take a big bite out of your unemployment check to keep your health insurance.  Kelley Weiss reports.

The report is by the consumer advocacy group Families USA. It shows most laid-off workers have to spend about three-quarters of their unemployment benefits to keep their health care insurance. That's if they opt to get COBRA insurance. It's a plan that lets you keep your health benefits for the short-term. But there's a catch. Since your employer is no longer chipping in, you have to pay the whole cost.  In California the report says COBRA insurance for a family, on average, is about $1,000 a month.

Betsy Imholtz is with the Consumers Union West Coast office.  She says whether to pay for COBRA is a tough decision.

Imholtz: "Once they see the price and the cost there is invariably sticker shock, it's a huge amount of money, so people are really scrambling."

Imholtz says if people are priced out, they'll go without health care. She says even if COBRA plans are expensive, it's probably the best option laid-off worker have.

In Sacramento, I'm Kelley Weiss.

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