Number of Uninsured California Residents Remains Steady Despite Drop in Employer-Sponsored Coverage
The number of uninsured California residents has remained steady at about 6.6 million in recent years in part because of increased enrollment in public programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, while rates of employer-sponsored health insurance have declined, according to a study released Tuesday by the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/16).
The study surveyed 42,000 households statewide and found that from 2001 to 2003 the percentage of adults with employer-sponsored health insurance declined by two percentage points to 54.5%, while health insurance coverage for children decreased by about four percentage points to 52.1% in the same period, the Los Angeles Times reports (Vrana, Los Angeles Times, 8/16).
The study found that the overall percentage of children who were uninsured for the entire year decreased by 2.5%. In addition, the uninsured rate for children living below the poverty line declined by 6.9% from 2001 to 2003, according to the study (Jablon, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
According to the study, about 796,000 California residents in 2003 had access to employer-sponsored coverage but lost it because they could not afford to pay increased premiums (Los Angeles Times, 8/16). The average monthly contribution for workers to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage increased by 79.1% from $114.08 in 2001 to $204.33 in 2003 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/16).
Employee health benefits in California in 2004 cost $3,685 annually for a single person on average and $10,013 annually for family coverage, the study found (Los Angeles Times, 8/16).
Of the 6.6 million California residents who did not have health insurance coverage for some part of 2003, one million were children, according to the study. The study found that nearly 3.3 million state residents did not have health insurance coverage for the entire calendar year, including 430,000 children.
The study did not estimate government costs for increased enrollment in public health insurance programs (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
Richard Brown, director of the health policy research center and professor of public health at UCLA, said, "I think it suggests that the foundation of our health insurance system continues to be unstable" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/16). He added, "What we are seeing is a continuing erosion of employer-based health insurance, and it is hitting families especially hard" (Los Angeles Times, 8/16)
Stan Rosenstein, deputy director of medical care services for the Department of Health Services, said, "It's always bad news to see employer-based coverage drop, but it does recognize the improvements the state has made to the Medi-Cal program" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the study.