Rate of Uninsured Californians Will Increase as Employers Drop Coverage, Report Says
The percentage of working adults in California with employer-sponsored health insurance will decrease from 58% in 2004 to 53% in 2010 if premiums continue to rise by 10% annually, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2). The study, conducted with the union-affiliated Working Partnerships USA, analyzed U.S. Census Bureau and California Department of Finance data from 2000 to 2004 (Vrana, Los Angeles Times, 6/2). The study found:
- For every 10% increase in health insurance premiums, 910,000 fewer U.S. adults had employer-sponsored coverage;
- Of those adults, 75% become uninsured, while 20% enroll in Medicaid programs (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 6/2);
- Employer-sponsored coverage for full-time California workers earning between $9 and $11 per hour between 2000 and 2004 declined from 59% to 46%, compared with a nationwide decline from 64% to 58% (Los Angeles Times, 6/2);
- Average health insurance premiums in California increased from $5,890 in 2000 to $8,422 in 2004 -- a 13% annual rate increase, compared with 11% nationwide;
- Over that time period, employer-sponsored health coverage in California declined from 61% to 58%, compared with a nationwide decline from 68% to 64%; and
- Enrollment in government programs between 2000 and 2004 increased from 8% to 8.6% in California, while national rates increased from 6.1% to 7.2%.
The study predicts that if premiums continue to increase by 10% annually in California, by 2010:
- Employer-sponsored health coverage for residents earning between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty level will decline by 8.2%;
- Coverage for residents earning between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level will decline by 6.42%;
- Coverage for residents with incomes at 400% of the federal poverty level will decline by 7.76%;
- Coverage for those earning above 400% of the federal poverty level will decline by 3.58%; and
- Coverage for those whose incomes are less than 100% of the federal poverty level will decrease by 1.2% (Contra Costa Times, 6/2).
Bob Brownstein, policy director for Working Partnerships, said, "For middle-income and low-wage workers, job-based coverage is increasingly becoming completely unavailable. This situation places an enormous number of working families ... at grave risk of economic or medical crisis" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2).
Economist and study co-author Arindrajit Dube said, "The most alarming thing is that precisely where we are seeing job growth in California, that is where we are seeing the biggest declines of employer-sponsored health care."
Ken Jacobs, deputy chair of the center and co-author of the study, said, "What we are facing is a downward spiral in health care coverage -- and California is five years further down the path than the nation as a whole" (Los Angeles Times, 6/2).
Anthony Wright, director of Health Access, said, "We're getting close to the tipping point. ... Employers who do provide coverage (now) won't because no one else is" (Contra Costa Times, 6/2). The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the study.