HEALTH COVERAGE: Study Gives Mixed Results for CA Employers
California businesses are less likely to offer their employees health coverage compared to other states, but those that do are more likely to provide more generous coverage compared to the national average, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released Tuesday. Based on interviews with benefits managers at 743 randomly-selected, private-sector companies, the study found only 48% of California employers offered health insurance in 1999, compared to 61% of firms nationwide. However, businesses offering coverage usually provided more plan options and coverage for temporary and part-time workers and domestic partners of employees. The study found that 81% of California firms offering health insurance provided two or more health plans, compared to 65% nationally. Moreover, 31% of employer-based plans covered unmarried or same-sex partners compared to 18% nationwide. Part-time and temporary workers fair better in California, as 55% of companies with insurance provide coverage for part-time employees compared to 41% nationally; 6% of temporary workers are offered coverage compared to 3% nationally. Kaiser Foundation President Drew Altman said, "The bad news is that Californians are not offered health insurance as frequently as their counterparts across the country. The good news is that when they are offered (health insurance), it costs them much less." A single state resident with health benefits pays an average of $21 per month compared to the $35 per month national average. For family coverage, the average Californian pays $117 versus $145 nationwide. The study indicates that "it is unclear why California lags" in employer-based coverage. Some speculate that the state's workforce is concentrated in smaller firms and industries that are less likely to provide coverage. However, the study found that "California firms of all sizes and industry categories offer health insurance at lower rates than firms nationally." The study concluded that the low rate of employer-provided health insurance is one reason why 22%, or 7 million residents, remain uninsured (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/18).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.