Editorials

Study finds 7 million Californians lack health insurance

The Associated Press
Friday February 09, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 7 million Californians lack health insurance despite the state’s economic growth, according to a university study released Thursday. 

The number of Californians under age 65 who were covered by health insurance rose by 500,000 between 1998 and 1999, mainly due to growth in employment-based insurance. 

But “we still have more than one in five non-elderly Californians uninsured,” said E. Richard Brown, lead author of the University of California, Los Angeles, study. 

“We see improvement in this last year, but that’s after several years of amazing economic growth,” he said. “That shows how resistant expanding coverage is ... even to things like improving the labor market.” 

“The most troubling thing is that it took so long for us to see improvements due to the economy,” he said, and a slowdown “may change these figures.” 

The number of uninsured Californians dropped from 7.3 million in 1998 to 6.8 million in 1999. About 1.1 million were illegal immigrants. 

The percentage of uninsured non-elderly dipped to 22.4 percent – down from a year earlier but about the same as in 1996. 

Six in 10 Californians were insured through their jobs or those of family members. About one in 10 were covered by Medi-Cal and the state’s Healthy Families Program. Healthy Families aims to insure children whose families earn too much to qualify for poverty-level programs but cannot afford private insurance. 

The study, funded by a grant from the California Wellness Foundation, concluded that the public programs could be expanded to help many more people. 

Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature have proposed expanding the Healthy Families Program to cover some parents.