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Health Insurance Gaps

By Lisa Schulmeister

The Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of U.S. Adults found that 25% of adults (defined as ages 19 to 64) experienced a gap in their health insurance in 2011, and 69% of these adults remained uninsured for one year or more. The Commonwealth Fund supports independent research on healthcare issues with the goal of improving healthcare policy and delivery.

Of those who were uninsured at the time of the survey or were insured but had experienced a gap, 41% previously had employer-based coverage, 18% had Medicaid, 6% had an individual plan, 7% had been insured through another source, and 27% never had health insurance. Among those who had employer-sponsored insurance prior to their gap in coverage, 67% reported a loss or change of a job as the primary reason. The researchers also found that people who had gaps in coverage were less likely to have a regular physician and less likely to undergo preventive care.

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide near-universal health insurance through a substantial expansion in Medicaid, subsidized private health insurance offered through new state insurance exchanges, and new insurance market rules that will prevent health insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people with preexisting health conditions. The findings of the survey support the need for federal and state policymakers to implement the new law.

Collins SR, Robertson R, Garber T, Doty MM. Gaps in Health Insurance: Why So Many Americans Experience Breaks in Coverage and How the Affordable Care Act Will Help. The Commonwealth Fund, April 2012. Available at:
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