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As Congress debates health care reform proposals in President Obama’s budget, new report documents the impact on health coverage of NOT implementing health-care reform.

Press Release, April 1, 2009


UC Berkeley researchers find that in the absence of health-care reform, even as the economy recovers from the recession, the number of working-age adults without health coverage will continue to grow, even above recession-induced levels.

Berkeley, CA -- Recent reports have estimated that increases in unemployment during this recession have increased the number of uninsured people by 3.7 million working-age adults nationally. A new report by University of California at Berkeley researchers finds that if no policy reform is implemented, even if the economy fully recovers, the number of uninsured working age adults will grow by 4.2 million over pre-recession levels by the end of 2012.

“The current economic crisis has made the health-care crisis much worse, but what’s even more disconcerting is that even if the economy fully recovers, the coverage rates for working-age adults will not return to pre-recession levels, and the numbers of people without insurance will continue to grow,” said Ken Jacobs, the report’s primary author and Chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.”

“The implications of our findings include higher costs for financially strained states and cities; decreases in productivity and earnings; and higher costs for employers and individuals who do have coverage.”

The report, “No Recovery in Sight: Health Coverage for Working-Age Adults in the United States and California,” uses data from the March Supplement for the Current Population Survey, a survey of about 50,000 households conducted monthly for more than 50 years by the Bureau of the Census for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report predicts the change in health-coverage rates and sources of coverage by the end of President Obama’s first term in office. It also analyzes health-care trends from 2000 to 2007, and looks at the impact that increasing unemployment during the current economic recession has had on health-coverage rates.

The report’s major findings include:

  • Health coverage trends from 2000-2007: Between the economic peaks of 2000 and 2007, the number of uninsured working-age adults in the United States increased by six million. In California, the number of uninsured adults increased by 800,000. These trends are being driven by a long-term decline in employer-sponsored health coverage.
  • Unemployment and insurance coverage: Using a formula developed by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the report finds that as the U.S. unemployment rate rose from 4.7 percent in November 2007 to 8.1 percent in February 2009, an estimated 3.7 million people became uninsured. In California, UC Berkeley researchers estimate 500,000 people have become uninsured over the course of the recession.
  • Predicted changes in coverage by 2012 in the absence of health reform: Assuming employment returns to 2007 levels by the end of 2012, premium costs continue to increase at current levels, and no significant policy reforms are implemented, the report predicts an increase of 4.2 million uninsured working-age adults in the United States and 600,000 uninsured working-age adults in California over pre-recession levels. While the deepest drops in job-based coverage would be in low- and middle-income families, the impacts would be felt across the income spectrum.

The report’s authors are Ken Jacobs and Dave Graham-Squire of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Jacobs is the Chair of the Center and a health care reform expert. Graham-Squire is a Research Associate at the Center.

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