THE UNINSURED: 7 Million Californians Lack Health Insurance
The number of Californians without health insurance grew at a rate of 50,000 per month, resulting in 7 million residents without medical insurance, according to a new report issued jointly by the public health schools of the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Los Angeles. The annual report found that even as the economy boomed, health insurance enrollment declined steadily. Among the findings:
- Medi-Cal coverage dropped from 42% in 1996 to 32% in 1997, even as the state's population living in poverty increased 5%.
- Thirty-eight percent of Latinos are uninsured, and only 42% of employed Latinos have job-based insurance, compared with 69% of non-Latinos.
- Twenty-four percent of Asian Americans were uninsured in 1997, up from 19% the previous year.
- Nearly half of noncitizens were uninsured in 1997, compared to 44% the previous year.
- Citing expense as a barrier, nearly one-third of uninsured adults did not seek medical attention when they needed it.
- Only 34% of uninsured women over age 50 received mammograms in the past two years and only 39% received a breast examination in the past year.
Here's An Idea
In an effort to improve access to health insurance, the authors offer several recommendations:
- Establish purchasing pools to negotiate group rates.
- Create a state insurance purchasing pool for small businesses with 50 to 100 employees, modeled after the Health Insurance Plan of California.
- Streamline the state's new Healthy Families program.
- Move regulation of managed care health plans to a new state agency, rather than the Department of Corporations.
- Establish an independent review process for HMO members' appeals.