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RB_Clinical_Test.JPGMiddle-age, low-income workers living in California's rural counties were the most likely to lose their jobs and their health insurance during the severe recession that struck the state six years ago.

That's the conclusion of a new report from researchers at UCLA's Center for Health Policy.

As unemployment more than doubled between 2007 and 2009, the study found, the number of Californians without health insurance rose more than 10 percent to 7.1 million. And while the poorest Californians were able to secure health coverage through the state's Medi-Cal and now-defunct Healthy Families programs, others were left to scramble for coverage.

"Whether because mid-career workers are viewed as too expensive or because there is a deeper bias against older workers, the data suggests the ax is first to fall on the baby boom generation," Shana Alex Lavarreda, the study's lead author, said in a statement accompanying its release. "This might open the door for policymakers to question the fairness of hiring and firing in the next economic cycle."

The study notes that similar impacts of future recessions on health care coverage are likely to be less severe because of the advent of the federal Affordable Care Act. The health care overhaul aims at reducing the state's 7-plus million medically uninsured residents by several million, either through expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility or from private, federally subsidized insurance under the new California Connected health care exchange.

PHOTO: A patient is examined in Carmichael on March 3, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton



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