December 5, 2006
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer
Amid growing calls for universal health care, a state agency released a survey Monday that says nearly 223,000 Connecticut residents did not have health insurance when surveyed this past summer - 26,000 more than in 2004.
The telephone poll of 4,202 people found that 6.4 percent weren't enrolled in private or publicly funded insurance programs, up from 5.8 percent two years ago, the state Office of Health Care Access said.
Nearly 347,000 people in Connecticut were uninsured for at least one period during the past year, according to estimates based on the poll by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy.
"It's not surprising that the uninsured rate has increased," said the agency's commissioner, Cristine Vogel. "What's disturbing is another year has gone by with limited efforts to close the gap."
Many politicians campaigned this year on the issue of increasing access to affordable health care and health insurance to address the growing number of uninsured consumers in Connecticut and around the nation. The cost of employment-based health insurance has been rising steeply, nearly doubling in eight years on a national average.
"I feel very encouraged that this year will be the year" for action "because, sad as it is, it got on the radar screen through federal elections," Vogel said.
The proportion of Connecticut residents with employer-based health insurance grew from 64 percent to 66.5 percent during the past two years, the survey said. But the share of residents with public coverage, such as Medicaid or Medicare, declined from 26.2 percent to 23.3 percent.
Lower-income families are at much greater risk of going without insurance than the middle class. A family of four earning less than $20,000 a year is 12 times more likely to be uninsured than a family earning $60,000 or more, the study said.
Slightly more than half of Connecticut's uninsured are minority-group members, with Hispanics composing 34 percent of the state's uninsured. Part of the reason is that Hispanics tended to be lower-income, and affordability is an issue.
However, a comparison of Hispanics and non-Hispanics in low-income brackets still shows that Hispanics are more likely not to have insurance, said Michael Sabados, associate research analyst at the Office of Health Care Access. "There might be some cultural issue," he said.
In the coming months, the agency plans to release information from surveys of Hispanics and young adults that probe why they don't have insurance.
Other findings disclosed Monday include:
Working adults represent 136,100, or 61 percent, of the 223,000 uninsured in Connecticut.
More than half of working people who aren't insured are in permanent full-time jobs.
Of the working uninsured, 14 percent have access to health insurance through their employers, but decline it. Many employers don't offer coverage, or workers aren't eligible for what is offered.
An estimated 32,600 residents are eligible for coverage through their employer or that of a spouse or parent.
Vogel said more people are eligible and could be enrolled, with the proper outreach, in HUSKY, the state's Medicaid program for low-income children and some of their parents.
The finding of the Office of Health Care Access survey of 223,000 uninsured in Connecticut differs from U.S. Census figure of 407,000 because of different methodology, Sabados said.
The census survey, for instance, contacts fewer Connecticut families, but interviews each member of the family. The Health Care Access poll contacts more households, but speaks with only one person in each, Sabados said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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