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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Chad and Allison Loomis play with their daughter, Sadie. They lost health insurance just before Sadie's birth.

A routine post-delivery visit to the doctor in August 2008 turned out anything but for Allison Loomis. When Loomis, doing her best to dutifully be the brand new mom, checked in with the receptionist at her Provo clinic, she was told that her insurance plan wasn't going to cover the visit and, by the way, didn't cover the last two.

"I don't know if I even said anything," Loomis recalls. "The expression on my face must have said everything I was feeling."

Um … well, the plan doesn't exist, she was told.

"I was just sick," she said.

But she wasn't surprised.

She and her husband, Chad, had begun dueling with their employer and with two separate medical insurance plans about seven months into her pregnancy.

"My 36-hour labor was nothing compared to the ordeal of dealing with this insurance mess," Loomis said. "Postpartum blues were easier to get through."

The Loomis family is among the 40,200 Utahns who lost insurance coverage when they lost their jobs in 2008. A report issued Tuesday by Families USA, the country's leading health-care consumer research and advocacy group, the percentage of uninsured adults in Utah grew to 17.6 percent — about 320,000 people — in 2006-08 and is projected to reach 18.8 percent by the end of 2009.

"The loss of a job is a terrible blow to working families, but when health insurance is lost along with the job, it is a devastating one-two punch," Ron Pollack, Families USA executive director said Tuesday. "The uninsured are less likely to get the care that they need when they need it, and they may face a financial catastrophe when medical bills start to pile up.

Because nearly 62 percent of working Americans under age 65 have insurance as a job benefit, when they lose their jobs they also lose health-care coverage, a situation the research and advocacy group calls a "one-two punch" of the American system of health care, Pollack said.

It was a three-four punch for the Loomises.

When the marketing company they both worked for went under just after their daughter was born, they found out they couldn't extend coverage through COBRA because the company had stopped paying its side of the premium and the insurer hadn't been paying any of the employees' medical bills for 90 days.

That meant that even if they could afford to extend their coverage after losing their jobs by paying the entire premium through COBRA, they couldn't. If there's no insurance plan, there's no COBRA. And if an employer stops offering coverage, the plan isn't going to pay anything.

When they first learned their company was having difficulties, "Oh my gosh, we just panicked," Allison said. "I was seven months pregnant, we're having a baby and we needed to do something. This was our first child and we were already stressed out."

They found a backup plan, bought into it and were even sent insurance cards. Little did they know the plan was in the throes of an insurance fraud allegation and was stopped in its tracks, despite assurances from the provider that everything was fine.

When that fell through, the couple looked into Medicaid, Utah's Premium Partnership for Health Insurance and the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover their daughter.

They missed being eligible by $5.

"Yes, five bucks," Loomis said. "No matter how they figured things, between our income and our expenses, we earned too much money to qualify."

The labor and delivery of Sadie totaled $9,980, 20 percent of which was absorbed by Intermountain Healthcare and its Orem Community Hospital where Sadie was delivered.

The couple also had most of their daughter's infant vaccines paid for.

"We were blessed in many ways," Loomis said. "Some of the bill was taken care of, and best of all our daughter arrived healthy and without complications."

The remainder of the bill was worked out in $250 monthly payments, which the couple will pay off by the end of the year.

The bill is a big of a snag for them, however, as they try to purchase their first home.

Although there are no missed payments, the unpaid bill puts a mark on their credit history and is raising the interest rate on their loan.

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"We just had no idea what we were up against and how this kind of thing just keeps rippling through about everything," Loomis said.

The couple is due to get college degrees next year, and Chad Loomis has been able to find a job that covers him and his wife. They have purchased separate coverage for Sadie.

Pollack said the couple is an apt example of how an economic downturn "exposes the tragic flaws in our health-care system. The health and financial well-being of American families can be put in jeopardy overnight, despite their best efforts and their best plans to protect themselves."

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com