Health Insurance Enrollment Declining in Industries With Large Minority Workforces

Apr 17, 2001, 01:00 ET from U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

    ROCKVILLE, Md., April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Industries with large minority
 work forces are trailing those dominated by white employees in the percentage
 of workers enrolling in employer-paid health insurance and the gap is
 widening, according to a new study supported by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare
 Research and Quality (AHRQ). The study, which was based on Census Bureau data
 on 197 industries between 1988 and 1997, compared health insurance enrollment
 across industries and over time.
     AHRQ Director John M. Eisenberg, M.D., said, "Studies such as this are
 critical to informing policymakers and employers of where and to what extent
 health coverage gaps exist between population groups." Dr. Eisenberg added
 that AHRQ recently launched a $45 million research program aimed at reducing
 racial and ethnic disparities in health care.
     "This study opens a window on how a changing American labor force has
 affected the distribution of health insurance," said principal investigator,
 Lisa A. Cubbins, Ph.D., of Seattle's Battelle Memorial Research Institute.
     The study also showed that since 1988:
 
     *     Workers are less likely to receive health benefits in industries
           with higher proportions of small firms, a trend that grew during the
           decade.  In the opinion of the researchers, rising health care costs
           were a contributing factor.
 
     *     Higher levels of full-time employees (35 hours or more a week) in an
           industry increased the likelihood of health benefits, although the
           magnitude of this effect declined during the decade.
 
     *     Lower unemployment rates and increased demand for labor during the
           past decade seem to have contributed to an increase in the percent
           of workers receiving health benefits in industries with
           proportionately more part-time labor.  According to the researchers,
           this may be because the high demand for labor in the mid-1990s led
           employers to use different incentives, such as health benefits, to
           attract part-time workers.
 
     *     The gap in health benefit levels between retail trade and
           nonprofessional service industries versus other types of industries
           widened, contributing toward the long-term decline in employer-based
           health insurance.
 
     *     There was no change in the impact of union activity on the level of
           health benefits, but the researchers hypothesize that as the labor
           movement extends its membership to include groups of workers who
           lack health benefits, the effect of unions on health benefits may
           become stronger.
 
     Simulations conducted by the researchers suggest that the decline in
 employer health benefits may be less dramatic over the next few years,
 compared with that of the last two decades.  They project that the average
 proportion of workers provided health benefits across industries by 2007 will
 be 47.8 percent compared to 50.3 percent in 1997.
     Details are in "Economic Change and Health benefits: Structural Trends in
 Employer-based Health Insurance," in the just-published March 2001 issue of
 Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
 
 

SOURCE U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
    ROCKVILLE, Md., April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Industries with large minority
 work forces are trailing those dominated by white employees in the percentage
 of workers enrolling in employer-paid health insurance and the gap is
 widening, according to a new study supported by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare
 Research and Quality (AHRQ). The study, which was based on Census Bureau data
 on 197 industries between 1988 and 1997, compared health insurance enrollment
 across industries and over time.
     AHRQ Director John M. Eisenberg, M.D., said, "Studies such as this are
 critical to informing policymakers and employers of where and to what extent
 health coverage gaps exist between population groups." Dr. Eisenberg added
 that AHRQ recently launched a $45 million research program aimed at reducing
 racial and ethnic disparities in health care.
     "This study opens a window on how a changing American labor force has
 affected the distribution of health insurance," said principal investigator,
 Lisa A. Cubbins, Ph.D., of Seattle's Battelle Memorial Research Institute.
     The study also showed that since 1988:
 
     *     Workers are less likely to receive health benefits in industries
           with higher proportions of small firms, a trend that grew during the
           decade.  In the opinion of the researchers, rising health care costs
           were a contributing factor.
 
     *     Higher levels of full-time employees (35 hours or more a week) in an
           industry increased the likelihood of health benefits, although the
           magnitude of this effect declined during the decade.
 
     *     Lower unemployment rates and increased demand for labor during the
           past decade seem to have contributed to an increase in the percent
           of workers receiving health benefits in industries with
           proportionately more part-time labor.  According to the researchers,
           this may be because the high demand for labor in the mid-1990s led
           employers to use different incentives, such as health benefits, to
           attract part-time workers.
 
     *     The gap in health benefit levels between retail trade and
           nonprofessional service industries versus other types of industries
           widened, contributing toward the long-term decline in employer-based
           health insurance.
 
     *     There was no change in the impact of union activity on the level of
           health benefits, but the researchers hypothesize that as the labor
           movement extends its membership to include groups of workers who
           lack health benefits, the effect of unions on health benefits may
           become stronger.
 
     Simulations conducted by the researchers suggest that the decline in
 employer health benefits may be less dramatic over the next few years,
 compared with that of the last two decades.  They project that the average
 proportion of workers provided health benefits across industries by 2007 will
 be 47.8 percent compared to 50.3 percent in 1997.
     Details are in "Economic Change and Health benefits: Structural Trends in
 Employer-based Health Insurance," in the just-published March 2001 issue of
 Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
 
 SOURCE  U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality