Rate of Employer-Sponsored Coverage in the State Decreases, Study Finds
About 53.8% of nonelderly state residents received employer-sponsored health insurance in 2003, according to a University of California-Los Angeles Center For Health Policy Research study released Sunday, the Sacramento Bee reports. The study found that the rate of residents receiving insurance through their employers decreased by 2.6% from 2001.
According to the study, more than 6.5 million state residents were uninsured at some point in 2003, including about one million children. The percentage of uninsured adults increased slightly from 2001, but the overall percentage of state residents without health insurance remained consistent because of increased enrollment of children in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
E. Richard Brown, director of UCLA's CHPR, noted that most uninsured state residents live in low-income households and said that efforts proposed by President Bush and state GOP lawmakers to provide tax incentives in order to promote health savings accounts and increased "ownership" of health coverage would be inadequate for most uninsured families. "For workers who are trying to buy family coverage through their employer, the average increase in the share of the cost they have to pay rose 79% between 2001 and 2003. That's huge," Brown said, adding, "Three-quarters of all of the uninsured in the state are in families that work; 60% are in families headed by someone who works full time."
Anthony Wright, spokesperson for Health Access, said that the shift away from employer-sponsored coverage has been gradual, adding, "It's very rare that a business says, 'You have health care coverage this month, but we're going to drop it next month.' What's more likely is that for new hires, they change the rules. The Southern California grocery strike is a classic example."
Wright also noted, "The reason the costs of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families are increasing is because more people are getting on them. What happens when the state begins cutting costs?"
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said employers "ought to be ponying up and paying a bigger share of the premiums, and we need to contain health care costs. Because if we don't contain health care costs, the premiums are going to continue to rise."
Brown added, "It's a tough problem, and there aren't going to be any easy answers. But the solutions really need to match the reality" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 2/7).