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Employee healthcare coverage drops in NYS

Nov 25, 2010 1:23 pm
Michael Gormley has a major Associated Press story out today that's carried top and center by the Kingston Daily Freeman trumpeting the fact that the proportion of New Yorkers with health insurance provided by their employers has plummeted, according to a new study. At the same time, government-subsidized care is taking on a record load, slowing the state’s economic recovery and likely leaving more families uncovered for at least months.

The rising cost of Medicaid-paid health care is a major driver of the state government’s rising deficits, which are forcing cuts in education and other services and prompting layoffs that further slow the economy.

Meanwhile, the private sector is sagging under the cost of providing health care, with 66 percent of companies saying they are struggling a great deal or somewhat to maintain coverage for employees. One in five companies avoided hiring because of healthcare costs, according to the study’s survey, and one in four companies either reduced or froze wages to pay for health care.

The report from the New York State Health Foundation said just 58 percent of New Yorkers are now covered by employer-sponsored health care. That’s down from 69 percent in 2001 after decades of gains.

Although 70 percent of employers continue to offer healthcare coverage in New York, fewer employees are eligible for the coverage, more costs have been shifted to workers often faced with fewer choices of care, and fewer employees are choosing to buy into coverage that’s available.

The study also found that in 2009, health insurance premiums increased by 7.3 percent in New York state and that 66 percent of companies in the state said they were struggling to provide health insurance for their workers. The foundation was created with charitable funds from the Legislature’s approval of the privatization of Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield a decade ago and aims to increase access to affordable, high-quality health care.

The study released earlier this month found employer-based healthcare coverage is about 10 percent higher in New York than the national average and an average co-payment for a non-preferred drug rose form $19 in 2001 to $46 in 2009.

The federal law is expected to expand coverage to 32 million Americans who now are uninsured. It also greatly expands the Medicaid program for the poor.

A year ago, 4.3 million New Yorkers received health coverage through Medicaid and its many programs that serve the poor, the working poor, and children under the Family Health Plus program. Now there are 4.7 million receiving Medicaid-paid services.

For the full story, which seems to back up previous calls for strengthening rather than weakening health care reform, and adding a "public option," click HERE...
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