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Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 12/14/2010

Economic security -- and insecurity -- in one graph

By Ezra Klein

Jacob Hacker, Philipp Rehm and Mark Schlesinger are out with the latest version of their Economic Security Index (pdf): a massive survey project that aims "to provide a meaningful, succinct measure of Americans' economic security." The effort has a couple of interesting components, one of them being that it looks for changes on both earning and spending. After all, from an economic security standpoint, a member of your family losing a job that brings in $40,000 is not that different from a member of your family getting sick and needing $40,000 in out-of-pocket medical spending.

And it turns out there's a lot of that going around. The top-line number is scary: "In the 18 months from March 2008 to September 2009, fully 93 percent of households experienced at least one substantial decline in their wealth or earnings or substantial increase in nondiscretionary spending, most often for medical needs or assistance to family members." Here's the breakdown (click on the graph to make it bigger):

seprishocks.png

As they note, the most common shock to the spending side comes from medical costs. People have bad insurance or no insurance, someone gets sick, and they're slammed with tens of thousands of dollars -- or perhaps even more than that -- in medical bills.

It doesn't get talked about that much, but this is something the health-care law really does address, both by helping people afford good health insurance and by regulating insurance products and insurance behavior so fewer people find their coverage yanked away when they need it most. Long-term cost control, rather than short-term cost protection, gets a lot more attention in the media, in part because people don't know that protection is something they need, or don't have, until one horrible morning when catastrophe strikes. But as the ESI's survey shows, it really does matter.

By Ezra Klein  | December 14, 2010; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Charts and Graphs  
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Comments

"the health-care law really does address... helping people afford good health insurance"

No, it doesn't. At least not yet. Maybe in another 3-4 years it will.

To make this claim like it is happening today is very deceptive. If the health insurance reform bill would have implemented access to insurance quickly, we wouldn't be experience the sorts of problems associated with health care that we are.

Time to start practicing some journalistic integrity here, Ezra. Or you just come off as another ACA rah-rah-rah'er wiling to overlook its faults to make phony claims.

Posted by: jc263field | December 14, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"After all, from an economic security standpoint, a member of your family losing a job that brings in $40,000 is not that different from a member of your family getting sick and needing $40,000 in out-of-pocket medical spending."

Yes there is a HUGE difference. You can delay payment of any kind on the medical bill for months/years, and then go bankrupt as is commonly done. If you lose your job, you're at the mercy of unemployment benefits, IF they're available to you.

An unusually dim-witted comparison from you Ezra!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 14, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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