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California's severe economic recession has sharply expanded the ranks of its medically uninsured residents, a new statistical study by UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research has found.

The study, based on enrollee data from private and public medical care programs, found that the uninsured under age 65 increased from 6.4 million in 2007 to 8.2 million last year, largely because of higher unemployment and cutbacks in employer-underwritten coverage. That's nearly a quarter of the under-65 population of the state.

"These estimates help us understand the scale of the damage inflicted on California over the last two years," Shana Alex Lavarreda, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. California has one of the nation's highest uninsured rates - a factor attributed to its seasonal and diverse economy - and because of its size has more uninsured residents than any other state

The study was released as Congress wrests with President Barack Obama's effort to expand coverage for the uninsured. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted several years ago to win legislative approval of a similar expansion of health coverage, but his measure died in the state Senate after approval by the Assembly. It was opposed by conservatives who disliked more government expansion and liberals who wanted a single-payer, government-operated program.

The full study may be found here.


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