HEALTH CARE COVERAGE: Declines For Less-Educated
A new Kaiser Family Foundation study looks at the decline in health insurance coverage for less-educated, low-income workers. Noting that "the links between ... labor market outcomes and health insurance status have received much less consideration from health care analysts and policymakers alike," the Kaiser Foundation report "attempts to bridge this gap by looking simultaneously at changes in wages and in health insurance status for less educated workers." The report notes that there are "52 million workers aged 22 to 62 with a high school education or less," making up "44% of the total labor force in this age range." Between 1991 and the second quarter of 1997, the study found that workers "with less than a high school degree experienced large declines in earnings in spite of the six-year long recovery," with males seeing a 1.8% decline per year and females losing 0.8%. Workers with only a high school degree "fared only slightly better," with males seeing a 0.6% decline per year and females a 0.3% decline.
The Coverage Trend
Among "full-time/full-year" workers with a high school education or less, those in the "bottom quartile" (i.e. males making less than $327 per week and females making less than $250), only 57% of males and 67.9% of females had health care coverage in 1995. With part-time and part-year workers factored in, only 46.9% of males and 66% of females "in the lowest quartile" had coverage that year. The report notes that "[a]mong the top quartile of less educated workers, 90% had health insurance coverage during all the quarters they worked," while only "47% of less educated workers in the bottom quartile were covered in all months they worked." In the first half of the 1990s, "coverage rates for the lowest quartile declined from 61.7% in 1990 to 58.7% in 1992, then regained some ground to end at 59.5% by 1995." The study also found that the "proportion of workers in the lowest quartile with coverage whose employer contributed none or only some of the cost of employer-provided coverage increased from 60% to 76%." Overall, coverage for less-educated workers "is low" -- only 43% of those in the lowest quartile had coverage at some point in 1995. And the "proportion of workers in the lowest quartile covered by health insurance declined from 62% in 1990 to 59% in 1995." The "proportion of those workers with employers paying the full premium for coverage declined."
Read It Yourself
Boston College economist Peter Gottshalk prepared the analysis, which is titled, "Trends in Wages and Health Insurance Status of Less Educated Workers" (4/98). For more information on the report, contact the Kaiser Family Foundation at (650) 854-9400.