California Has Highest Number of Uninsured Health Care Workers, Harvard Study Says
California has the largest number of health care workers without health insurance, according to a Harvard Medical School study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey from 1988 to 1998 and found that the percentage of uninsured health care workers nationwide increased from 8% in 1988 to 12% in 1998. According to the study, California had the largest number of uninsured health workers, at 154,000, followed by Texas and New York, which had 151,000 and 110,000 uninsured health care workers, respectively. Study author David Himmelstein said, "California generally has a pretty poor record of health coverage for health care workers." The Times reports that nurses' aides, nursing home workers and custodial staff were most likely to lack insurance coverage (Abdur-Rahman, Los Angeles Times, 2/28). The study's authors said that "[d]eclining coverage rates in the growing private-sector health care workforce -- and the declining health employment in the public sector, which provided health insurance benefits to more of its workers" -- were responsible for the increase in uninsured health care workers (Case et al., "No Care for the Caregivers: Declining Health Insurance Coverage for Health Care Personnel and Their Children, 1988-1998," March 2002). Several health care officials expressed "disappoint[ment]" with the results. "You'd like the health care industry to practice what it preaches, but [it] is just like any other industry when it comes to low-wage workers," Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, added, "It's not any worse for a low-wage employee in a restaurant to be uninsured than a low-wage employee in a nursing home to be uninsured. They have the same family, the same risks, and it's unfortunate for anyone to be uninsured" (Los Angeles Times, 2/28). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.