Insured or Not, Women and Children’s Health Shortchanged

The escalation of insurance costs is old news by now, but in light of the recession, the pattern doesn't augur well for a half-baked reform plan.

By Michelle Chen Sep 03, 2010

The passage of health care reform legislation hasn’t yet curbed the steady upward creep of health insurance costs for workers. According to a study by the health research group Kaiser Family Foundation:

Total premiums for family coverage, taking into account both employee and employer contributions, are $13,770, up 3 percent from last year, the survey found. The share of the premium paid by workers jumped 3 percentage points to 30 percent. In the dozen years the survey has been conducted, the employee share of family coverage has never topped 28 percent and has never risen more than 2 percentage points in a single year.

The soaring cost of employer-based insurance is old news by now, but in light of the recession, the pattern doesn’t augur well for the pending half-baked reform plan. The rising cost of care could drive more employers to scale back coverage or push workers to drop coverage. The major health care reforms, meanwhile, won’t go into effect until 2014, and even then may fail to close coverage gaps, since the new private insurance exchanges will focus on the uninsured (not the dysfunctionally insured). Health and Human Services notes that women are often marginalized in the chaotic employer-sponsored insurance system:

Women are less likely to be employed full-time than men (52% versus 73%), making them less likely to be eligible for employer-based health benefits themselves. In fact, less than half of women have the option of obtaining employer-based coverage on their own….. Single women are twice as likely to be uninsured than married women (24% versus 12%).

The crisis impacts poor children as well: According to the Urban Institute, "While 91 percent of higher-income children live in families where at least one employed parent is offered health insurance through an employer, this is true of just 53 percent of low-income children"; the disparity is especially large for Latino kids. Bear in mind that these households have succeeded in holding onto some form of coverage despite the skyrocketing costs. If these are the "lucky ones," it’s no wonder that Democrats have scheduled their untested reforms to kick in well after the upcoming election cycle.