California's uninsured rate hits 8 million, UCLA study finds

Researchers issued yet another grim statistic Monday on the toll of the recession: 2 million additional Californians — 85,000 of them in the capital region — lost their health care coverage during the recent economic slide.

As a result, difficult decisions are playing out in living rooms and across kitchen tables as families struggle with joblessness and tighter finances, according to the authors of a new UCLA study that gives a county-by-county account of the state's swelling numbers of uninsured, now estimated at 8 million.

In Sacramento County, 17.6 percent of the non-elderly population went uninsured at some point last year, compared with 13.1 percent in 2007. In two years, the ranks of the county's uninsured climbed by 63,000 people — bringing the total to more than 224,000, according to the study by the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Health Policy Research.

Despite the ongoing federal overhaul of the health care system, relief for many of the newly uninsured won't arrive anytime soon. Key provisions of the landmark legislation, including subsidies for purchasing health insurance through state-run exchanges and the expansion of Medi-Cal, won't be available until at least 2014.

"Job loss, foreclosures, and a loss of insurance coverage have combined in many areas of the state to make families vulnerable to prolonged financial as well as health problems," the study states.

The unemployment rate in the Sacramento region stood at 12.7 percent in July, slightly higher than the 12.3 percent statewide.

"It could have been much worse in Sacramento," said said Shana Alex Lavarreda, the study's lead author.

She noted that the region's corps of state workers might have kept the unemployment rate, and by extension the rate of uninsured, from going higher. "There were furlough days, but at least the state wasn't laying people off thousands at a time, unlike private industry."

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