About 48 million Americans were uninsured at one point or another during 2011, says a report by the Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of US Adults.
A nonprofit organization headquartered in New York, the Commonwealth Fund said that 26% of Americans had a hole in their health insurance coverage in 2011.
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Losses or changes in jobs, either on the part of the individual or his or her spouse, were driving factors in many cases.
'It's a difficult place to find an affordable plan, and it's also a difficult place to comparison-shop,' said Sara Collins, vice president for the Affordable Health Insurance Program at The Commonwealth Fund. 'There just isn't a lot of information tools to help people in their search for a plan.'
The survey included 2,100 adults in the United States ages 19 to 64.
Of those who reported a gap in health insurance, 69% said they did not have insurance for a year or longer, and 57% went two or more years without coverage.
The survey found that nearly half who tried to get coverage over the past three years did not end up buying a plan on the individual market. The majority of them, 62%, said the premiums were too expensive.
It proved difficult to compare benefits that different plans offer for 60% of respondents who tried to purchase a plan. And almost one-third of participants said insurance plans turned them down, raised prices or excluded a condition because of a pre-existing condition.
Participants also appeared less likely to have a regular doctor and get preventative tests such as blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring if they had a gap in health insurance.
The Commonwealth Fund had said in a report last year that about 9 million people who lost a job with health benefits in 2008 to 2010 became uninsured, indicating that employment is tied to health coverage for many Americans.