UNINSURED: Many Refuse Employer-Based Coverage
At least 14% of individuals with access to health insurance through an employer or family member do not accept the coverage, according to a new survey by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan think tank funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Of that 14%, about two-thirds "have an alternate source of health insurance, either through a public program or purchased on their own." The remaining 5% who do not, however, represent about 20% of the uninsured, or 7.3 million people. Lead author Peter Cunningham said most of this segment refuses coverage because they can't afford the premiums. "Cost is the main factor for declining coverage," he said (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 10/13). He noted that the reason many workers may find costs prohibitive is that low-income workers "often pay more to get coverage on the job than their higher-income counterparts." For instance, employees at firms paying an average of $7 per hour faced premiums of about $130 per month, while workers at firms paying an average of $15 per hour could buy in for $84 a month. As such, 78% of workers in the former category participate in company programs, but 87% in the latter program participate (Wall Street Journal, 10/13). Paul Ginsburg, the center's president, said the findings suggest that Congress, in tackling the problem of the uninsured, "should not limit subsidies to those who don't have access" to insurance (CongressDaily/A.M., 10/13).
Public Concern Approaches '92 Levels
The "plight of the uninsured has returned to the top of the public's agenda," according to a new survey conducted for a coalition of health groups that will sponsor a conference on the uninsured in January. "What we've seen in the last two years is a remarkable surge in this issue," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who conducted the poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. In surveying 800 adults, the duo "found support virtually identical for using budget surpluses to help the uninsured, at 55%, as it did for the other top issue, preserving Social Security and Medicare, at 56%." In addition, 69% said they would pay $50 per year more in taxes to help the uninsured. In 1992, when "sentiment last peaked on the issue," 65% said they would be willing to be taxed more. "A majority of people are telling us they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate who talks about the issue," said McInturff. The survey, conducted Sept. 29-Oct. 4, has a margin of error of +/- 3.5% (Rovner/Koffler, CongressDaily, 10/12).