Rate of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Coverage Drops
Workers in low-wage and manufacturing jobs are "less likely to be offered" employer-sponsored health insurance now than they were in 1979, according to a new report from the Center for National Policy. The Bloomberg/Denver Post reports that in 1979, 66% of workers overall had coverage compared to 54% in 1998 (Bloomberg/Denver Post, 6/14). The decline in employer-sponsored coverage was the "most striking" among those earning the least. Among "blue collar" workers, the percentage of workers with coverage though their employer fell from 63% in 1979 to 43% in 1998. In addition, all employees with coverage are now more likely to contribute to their health plans, as 26% of employers covered the full cost of premiums in 1998, down from 45% in 1983. The study found that the reduction in firms offering health benefits is "partly explained" by a shift in the economy from manufacturing jobs to service jobs (Commonwealth Fund release, 6/13). Bill Lindsay, president of Benefit Management & Design, said, "Health care rates are increasing in excess of 25% a year. What happens as a result [is that] younger workers, lower wage workers and workers that are healthy have been declining coverage for themselves and their dependents." Because premiums are increasing quicker than wages, the decline in low-wage workers with coverage may continue and low-wage workers will be the "most likely" to have difficulty obtaining coverage, according to the report. "When you have a family rate that's well in excess of $750 a month, (workers) are saying that's a house payment. I'll decline coverage and put the money in the bank and take a chance that my spouse or my kids won't get sick," Lindsay said (Bloomberg/Denver Post, 6/14). The study is available online at http://www.cmwf.org/programs/insurance/medoff_labor_449.pdf. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobot to access the study.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.