Study Finds Employer Health Coverage Is Flat
Despite the economic boom between 1997 and 2001, the proportion of working Americans covered by employer-sponsored health insurance remained flat, according to a new study.
The study by the Center for Studying Health System Change, Washington, found that while there was a slight decline in the proportion of uninsured Americans from working families during the 1997-2001 period, this was due to growing public health insurance enrollment rather than expansion of the employer-based system.
But overall, the study says, more than one in 10 people from working families, some 22 million Americans, remained uninsured in 2001.
The Center is a policy research organization funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“These findings tell us that relying on economic growth alone to reduce the number of uninsured wont work,” says Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the Center.
“Short of a major public investmenteither through subsidies to purchase private health insurance or public coverage expansionssignificantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans in working families isnt likely,” he says.
Don Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, says that at a time of rising health care costs, the employer-based system should not be taken for granted.
He calls on lawmakers to take steps to expand employer-based coverage.
“Tax credits to encourage employers to offer and individuals to obtain private health insurance is one way in which the private and public sectors can work together to close the remaining gaps in health coverage,” he says.
Helen Darling, president of the Washington Business Group on Health, adds that the report is a wake-up call to all policy makers that heatlth care affordability is a worsening problem.
“Policy makers have to resist the temptation to mandate ever richer benefits that will be available to fewer and fewer people,” she says.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, Washington, a consumer group, says the nation must make the uninsured a top priority.
The report, he says, drives home the “harsh reality” that millions of working Americans will continue to have no health insurance and no access to health care regardless of economic boom or bust.
Any viable solution, Pollack says, must build on both the employer-based system and successful public programs.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 2, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.