California’s Uninsured Dropped 9% in 2000, But Further Coverage Gains in Doubt
The number of Californians without health insurance declined 9% to 6.2 million in 2000, primarily due to an increase in employer-sponsored coverage, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. However, the study data predates the recent economic downturn and a jump in health care premiums that will likely slow or reverse the trend toward greater coverage, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/13). The percentage of uninsured Californians dropped to 20% in 2000 from 21% in 1999, when 6.8 million residents were uninsured. Using information from the Current Population Survey, UCLA researchers found that the number of Californians under age 65 with employer-based insurance rose from 58.9% to 60.8% in 2000 (Brown et al., UCLA Center for Health Policy Research fact sheet, March 2002). But higher premiums and greater unemployment will likely drive this percentage back down, Richard Brown, director of the UCLA center, said (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 3/13). As this occurs, more residents may turn to public health programs, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 3/13). The rate of Californians covered by Medi-Cal and Healthy Families rose from 12.9% in 1999 to 13.1% in 2000. The study found that if the state implements a planned expansion of Healthy Families to cover parents of eligible children with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, more than two million uninsured Californians -- a third of the entire population without coverage -- would be eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research fact sheet, March 2002). Up to 1.7 million uninsured children and adults were eligible for one of the two programs in 2000 but were not enrolled (Sacramento Bee, 3/13). But even if coverage is expanded through public health programs, 2.4 million uninsured adults are citizens or documented immigrants who will not qualify but cannot obtain private coverage, either because their employers do not offer it or they cannot afford the premiums. Further, more than 1.5 million undocumented residents without coverage are ineligible for the state's public health programs (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research fact sheet, March 2002).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.