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Center for Labor Research and Education

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Report warns fewer employers covering health

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Orange County Register

The percentage of workers who get health coverage through their employers is declining as the cost of health care rises, according to a new study released Wednesday by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

If the trend continues, the report warned, there will be a spike in the percentage of people without insurance and greater dependence on government health programs – in California and nationwide.

The study, funded by the California Endowment and the Blue Shield Foundation of California, also found that covered workers are shouldering a bigger share of the their monthly premiums and that people with low incomes are bearing the biggest brunt of a continuing rise in health costs.

Some of the key findings:

From 2000 to 2003, the average cost of job-based family coverage in California rose from $5,890 to $8,422 – an annual increase of 13 percent.

In the same period, a California employee’s annual contribution to health insurance rose from $1,477 to $2,552 for family coverage and from $271 to $454 for individual coverage. Workers’ share of the premium payments rose from 25 percent to 30 percent for family plans and from 12 percent to 15 percent for individual ones.

The proportion of California adults with job-based health insurance fell 2.7 percentage points from 2000 to 2004, with the biggest decline – up to 7 percentage points – among lower-income people. For all kinds of insurance combined, the percentage of covered people fell 1 percentage point in California and 2.8 percentage points nationwide.

For every 10 percent rise in health-care premiums, there will be 654,000 more adults uninsured nationwide and 164,000 more enrolled in public programs.

If premium rates continue to rise at 10 percent a year, California will have 1.2 million more uninsured adults – and 1.5 million more uninsured overall – by 2010. There will also be 880,000 more Californians enrolled in publicly funded programs.