EMPLOYER-SPONSORED COVERAGE: Depends On Many Factors
"An employee's chance of getting health insurance at work depends on where he or she lives, how large the company is, and whether workers are part of a union," according to a new federal study released yesterday. The National Center for Health Statistics study shows that health insurance "rates vary widely by state, company size, industry and a host of other factors," the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Fifty-two percent of employers nationwide offered group health insurance in 1993, according to the 1994 survey (3/10). And, "[o]verall, 58% of the nation's private employees obtained insurance through their jobs." The Washington Post reports "specialists on health insurance surveys said yesterday that they did not believe the patterns have changed significantly since the survey was carried out."
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The survey shows that "the most important factor determining whether an employer offers insurance is the company's size, with the largest businesses the most likely to provide coverage." The data -- "based on interviews with nearly 35,000 business establishments" -- also reveal that "employers in much of the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic regions are 50% more likely to offer workers the opportunity to buy health insurance than those in poorer, more rural states" (Goldstein, 3/10). Even when employers offered health insurance, it was almost always to full-time workers. Eighty-two percent of full-time workers were offered insurance, compared to 18% of part-timers. But many of the factors "were interrelated, officials noted." While a large company (96% of companies with 100 or more employees) may be more likely to offer coverage than a smaller one (33% of companies with fewer than 10 employees), older companies (72% of those 25 years or older) were also more likely to provide benefits than newer companies (35% of those less than five years old). "But older companies tend to be larger in the first place," the AP/Inquirer points out. Hawaii "led the nation with 86% of employers sponsoring health plans for their workers"; it is also the only state in the union with laws requiring most employers to offer coverage (3/10).
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"The District [of Columbia] ranked second, with coverage offered by 66% of private-sector employers." According to study author Gail Poe, "Because of the relatively generous federal benefits, private employers" in DC "have to offer good benefits to get the best employees." And while the nation's capital ranks among the top cities in "percentages of residents who are uninsured or on Medicaid, the city also employs an unusually large cadre of well-educated, well-paid professional workers whose jobs tend to come with health coverage," the Post reports. The states with the least coverage included Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. "In the end it is an income problem," said researcher Jon Gabel (3/10). Montana was at the bottom of the insurance barrel, with only 40% of employers offering coverage to employees.
The survey also found that unionized workers (84%) fared better than nonunion workers (52%) in receiving health insurance. Mining was the industry most likely to be covered (67%), while agriculture was the least likely. Nonprofit firms (66%) offered insurance more often than for-profit firms (52%); firms in metropolitan areas (54%) offered insurance more often than did others (44%) (AP/Inquirer, 3/10).