A major source of health insurance for people who work for themselves is disappearing, casting thousands of contractors, freelancers and solo practitioners into the ranks of the uninsured with little hope of obtaining new coverage.
Health plans offered by professional associations were once havens for millions of people who couldn't get coverage anywhere else. But as medical costs have soared, groups representing professions as varied as law and golf have been forced to stop offering the benefit or been dropped by insurers.
More than 8,000 people with coverage through the California Assn. of Realtors could be next if Blue Shield of California succeeds with its plan to cancel the group's health coverage.
"It's a real stab in the heart," said Marcy Garber, 62, an Encino real estate agent whose history of breast cancer makes her an almost-certain reject if she seeks similar coverage on her own.