UNINSURED: Many Baby Boomers Lack Coverage
One of every seven Californians aged 45-64 go without health insurance, placing a strain on the health care industry, according to a new California Work and Health Survey, the Sacramento Bee reports. The results surprised researchers because that age bracket is "a working-age population" where "people hold full-time jobs, but simply lack benefits," according to Dorothy Rice, the survey's principle investigator. Researchers also found a correlation between income level and health problems -- more than 50% of those earning less than $20,000 yearly complained of poor or fair health -- in contrast to the mere eight percent who earn $80,000 or more who suffer poor or fair health. The survey of 2,044 adults was funded by the California Wellness Foundation and conducted by the Field Institute and the University of California, San Francisco (Yamamura, 9/7).
Sensitive Age Bracket
When people reach their mid-40s, health problems and the need for care often appears, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The survey showed that more than 25% of Californians between the ages of 45 and 70 experience back problems, high blood pressure or arthritis and 46% of those who retired before age 50 did so because of health reasons. And because a "significant number of people in the group are uninsured, they often delay medical visits until they are old enough to qualify for Medicare at age 65," often making treatment "more expensive than if an illness were caught early" (Sprayberry, 9/7). The uninsured "typically go to emergency rooms and county or commercial health clinics," only coming in if they're "in need of urgent care" (Yamamura, 9/7). "As more people are uninsured, and use emergency rooms for primary health care, it will drive up the cost tremendously ," said Gary Stephany, president of the Healthcare Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, adding that "if they cannot pay, the hospital has to absorb the cost" because "emergency rooms can neither deny treatment nor pass the expenses incurred by the uninsured on to other patients" (Sprayberry, 9/7).
There are organizations to assist the uninsured and for small businesses struggling to offer their employees some assistance. For example, the Union-Tribune reports that the California Health Collaborative's Breast Cancer Treatment Program, established by private dollars, helps uninsured women. In addition, the Alliance Healthcare Foundation in San Diego "provided a $1.2 millon grant to Sharp Health Plan for a new program to help small companies whose workers are considered among the working poor." That grant will target companies with 50 or fewer workers, helping to cut typical monthly premiums of $125-$325 down to $24-$49 a month (Sprayberry, 9/7).
Mercury News Weighs In
A San Jose Mercury News editorial warns that amidst the state Legislature's battles with managed health care reform, "7 million Californians who don't have any health insurance" are being "overshadowed." The editorial argues that "[f]undamental changes in the state's economy are altering the way people get access to health care, and only a fundamental change in the way care is provided will reverse the steady slide of low-income workers into the ranks of the uninsured." State Sen. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) is singled out as having a solution in SB 480, which "directs the state's Health and Human Services Agency to develop a list of options for extending insurance to people who don't have it now, including a minimum level of coverage and ideas on how to pay for it." The Assembly passed SB 480 yesterday. The Mercury News insists "California needs to find a solution to unacceptably high rates of uninsured residents before the next recession hits" and "Solis' bill doesn't force taxpayers, employers or insurers to fork over millions of dollars to provide essential medical care to the working poor" (9/6).