Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Job creators", Wisconsin less likely to give health insurance, workers squeezed

Paul Krugman wrote a strong article today showing how employers have become much less likely to be a source of an American's health insurance, and it included the following graph that was part a paper on employer coverage from the National Institute for Health Care reform.

What's remarkable in that graph is not only the decrease in number of Americans under 65 that get employer coverage (from nearly 70% in 2001 to 53.5% 9 years later), but also where that sixth of Americans did as a result.

1/2 of that group went on Medicaid
1/3 of that group ended up uninsured
About 1/10 got individual insurance
About 1/12 went on Medicare

Another key part of the study shows that the real speed-up in people not getting employer coverage happened with the start of the recession in 2007. The report notes that 10% more families weren't working at all (understandably), and some of those that did keep a job had their hours reduced from full-time to part-time, which made it less likely to get health care benefits. There were also a couple of particular groups of workers who weren't as likely to get their coverage through work:
Among young adults aged 18 to 27, the share [being a member] in a working family dropped from 70 percent in 2007 to slightly more than 50 percent in 2010, and the share enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent. For people in families headed by someone with a high school education or less, the share in working families dropped by 16 percentage points to just more than half, and the share with employer coverage declined from 47 percent to 36 percent between 2007 and 2010. Families headed by people with a college degree experienced smaller declines in both employment and employer-sponsored insurance. Families at the edge of the labor force were most susceptible to losing health insurance because of long-term cost trends and were most likely to lose jobs during the recession.

Among working families, only those employed by small firms - fewer than 100 workers - experience a statistically significant decline between 2007 and 2010 in employer health coverage, from 51 percent to 45 percent. Decline in both the [employer] offer rate and the [employee] take-up rate contributed to the overall decline in coverage for workers in small firms.

It's also interesting to note that over 1/4 of workers with a high school degree don't take employer-sponsored health plans even if offered them, probably because the plans are too expensive for them (which means they are uninsured or on public assistance), or they are covered through another family member (spouse, parent, etc.).

So with fewer people getting their insurance through their job, it now falls to the government and the individuals to pay for health insurance, and this is where you get the squeeze. Wisconsin is a good example of how an individual worker can get hit from a lack of support in health insurance from both the employer and the government. If you take a look at the $91 million in approved Medicaid cuts that went through Joint Finance last week you'll see that over 40% of these savings come from large increases in BadgerCare Plus premiums for families that make between 133% and 200% of poverty. For example, a 3-person family making just over $30,000 would go from paying $27 amonth in premiums to $115 a month. That's a serious bite for a single-parent with 2 kids working full-time making $14.00 an hour, and DHS officials figure 7,500 Wisconsinites will simply drop out instead of making the payments. What happens to them? They might end up uninsured (and go to the emergency room for treatment), or the end up on the individual insurance market, where they'll be hard-pressed to get the affordable, comprehensive care they might need.

Related to that, another $20.8 million in DHS savings is from raising premiums in "transitional" Medical Assistance. The original DHS plan was to entirely cut off the single-parent, 2 kid families at $38,000 in income, but after the Obama Administration threatened to pull their side of the funding . (much like how they did to Rick Perry and Texas last week) , Dennis Smith and company backed off of that. So instead, they'll raise premiums for parents by as much as $200 a month (if you make $38K) and $450 a month (if you make $57K). Children seem to be exempted, but realistically some parents might choose a different family coverage if they have pay $200-$450 a month for health coverage, and DHS figures another 2,643 Wisconsinites will go off the Medicaid rolls as a result.

Now you put it together from the report on employer coverage mentioned above, and you see that both governments and employers are finding a logical place for savings is putting the stress onto the individual as a way to cut costs of operations. So my question is simple - why don't we admit that health insurance is a serious burden for individuals and businesses, and the increases in cost for insurance continue to go up, so why not have Medicare for all to cover these costs, take the burden off of the individual and business to pay these expenses? Any resulting tax increase would probably be less than the widely varying and increasing costs we have now, (in fact, Krugman offers another good takedown of GOP lies about health care policy, as he points out the estimated costs of Obamacare keep coming down) and there'd be a much wider base to spread the expense around. Seems simple and logical to me, and it would stop the crunch that millions of workers are getting caught in with less jobs, stagnant wages, and less employer health coverage.

Oh wait, that would cut into the profits for insurance corporations and drug companies, and they contribute too much to have their interests take a back seat to having government contribute to the general welfare and economic stability. Silly me.

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