More than 6.5 million Californians under age 65 -- including nearly 1 million children -- lack health insurance, according to a report issued by the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, those who have health coverage through their employers saw their financial contributions jump nearly 80% in recent years, to an average payment of $204.33 a month. Those who buy private insurance sometimes find lower premiums but must accept high deductibles and "skimpy coverage," according to E. Richard Brown, the study's co-author and director of the UCLA center.
The study showed that between 2001 and 2003 the number of adults covered all year by employer-offered health insurance fell 2.1%, while the number of children covered decreased by 3.9%. Most of the losses appeared to be because workers lost their jobs or could not afford large increases in family coverage premiums as employers passed on more costs to employees, the study concluded.
More than 5.6 million adults under age 65 lacked health coverage for at least part of 2003, including nearly 3.3 million who had none for the entire year. Nearly 1 million children, or one in 10, lacked coverage, including 430,000 who had none for the whole year.
Overall, the proportion of uninsured Californians remained the same during the period studied. Researchers attributed that to more people buying their own coverage and state and federal insurance programs covering more children. Children, especially, benefited from changes that made more of them eligible to receive healthcare through Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, and Healthy Families programs funded by the state and federal government, the study found. The number of children covered by those programs rose 5.1%.
In addition, recently developed county-based expansion programs covered thousands of children by filling in the gaps left by Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, the study found.
The study, "The State of Health Insurance in California: Findings from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey," was based on interviews with 42,000 Californians.