Employer-Sponsored Insurance Coverage Rates Remained Flat from 1997-2001
Despite a healthy national economy between 1997 and 2001, the percentage of American workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance did not increase significantly during that time period, according to a new report released yesterday by the Center for Studying Health System Change, the AP/Hartford Courant reports (Meckler, AP/Hartford Courant, 8/22). For the study, researchers analyzed responses from HSC's Community Tracking Study Household Survey, which was conducted in 1997, 1999 and 2001 and contains information from about 60,000 nonelderly people in working families. The report, "Working Families' Health Insurance Coverage, 1997-2001," found that 77.5% of workers had employer-sponsored health coverage in 2001, compared to 76.6% in 1999 and 76.8% in 1997 (Strunk/Reschovsky, "Working Families' Health Insurance Coverage, 1997-2001," August 2002). "These findings tell us that relying on economic growth alone to reduce the number of uninsured won't work," HSC President Paul Ginsburg said, adding, "Short of a major public investment -- either through subsidies to purchase private insurance or public coverage expansions -- significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans in working families isn't likely" (HSC release, 8/21).
The report's authors said that between 1997 and 2001, health costs were "relatively stable," the nation's economy was strong and there was a demand for workers -- factors that should have led to increased private sector health insurance coverage. Kate Sullivan, director of health policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the percentage of employer-insured workers remained stagnant in part because many new jobs were created by small businesses, which traditionally have more difficulty paying for workers' health coverage. "I don't think you can count on employers to solve the problem of the uninsured," Sullivan said. The report found that the percentage of uninsured children living in working families decreased from 20.4% in 1997 to 15.5% in 2001. It attributed the decline to the CHIP program, created in 1997 (AP/Hartford Courant, 8/22). The study found that CHIP "played a significant role in reducing the number of uninsured low-income children in working families, but that some substitution of public for private coverage also occurred" (HSC release, 8/21). The report 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.