U.S. Workers Face Barriers to Health Coverage

July 12, 2001
Many working Americans are unable to get health insurance through their employers because of waiting periods for new employees and exclusions for part-time workers, according to a study.

Workers also are less likely to enroll when they have to shell out a high monthly contribution toward their health insurance, researchers wrote in the July/August issue of the journal Health Affairs.

The study, based on a 1999 national survey of nearly 2,000 employers, provides new insight into the impact of eligibility policies on employee health coverage.

"Nearly one of four employees working for firms that offer benefits is

ineligible," lead author Jon Gabel of the Health Research and Educational Trust in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "Removing barriers to participation could significantly increase coverage rates for working families"

Waiting times appear to be prevalent nationally, with less than one in three workers (31 percent) having coverage that begins immediately.

About one in nine workers has to wait at least 4 months, the study findings show.

The study also noted that many small firms do not offer health insurance because of high costs.

"If insurers could offer bare bones, low-priced coverage, many more small firms would provide health benefits," said Gabel. "Unfortunately, that has not been the real-world experience."

The slowing of the overall economy also limits participation, according to Gabel.

"Low-paid workers are highly sensitive to the cost of health insurance," said Gabel. "A softening of the labor market will enable employers to pass on rising costs to workers, and as a resutl, more workers will decline coverage."

Edited by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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