Modest income workers losing health care benefits

Filed under: Health Care |

Fewer employers are offering health insurance to parents with modest incomes — and the rate has fallen three times faster than offerings to parents who earn more money, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Nationally, only 47 percent of parents earning less than $40,000 a year are offered health insurance through their employer, a 9 percent decline since 1997.

Offers of health insurance to parents who earn more than $80,000 have held steady at 78 percent.

The study shows that two out of three uninsured children in Colorado, or 65 percent, live with adults who earn modest incomes, $40,000 or less for a family of four. Many of these uninsured children would likely be eligible for free or low-cost insurance coverage through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) — called Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) in Colorado– which Congress is expected to reauthorize this year.

Signed into law in 1997, SCHIP provides federal money to states to design a health insurance program for vulnerable children. The states determine eligibility rules, benefit packages and payment levels.

“In reauthorizing SCHIP, Congress must provide the funds needed to maintain coverage for all currently enrolled kids and the millions more who are eligible but remain unenrolled. We must ensure that children whose parents work hard but cannot afford health insurance for their kids can get the health care they need to thrive,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “For the last decade, SCHIP has provided a much-needed safety net for our nation’s kids, especially as there has been a decline in the number of children in low-income families covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. Parents realize that providing health insurance for their children is becoming more costly and those who earn modest wages are doubly squeezed. They are less likely to be offered insurance on the job, and less able to afford to purchase it on their own.”

Colorado is facing the same problems providing insurance to children as other states.

“In Colorado, like the rest of the nation, health care costs continue to rise, straining the budgets of Colorado’s working families. As a result, the number of uninsured kids here in Colorado continues to grow,” said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien. “Access to health care is fundamental to our administration’s goal to create a better Colorado for our children and our grandchildren, Reauthorization and full funding of SCHIP will enable CHP+ to continue to offer a low-cost health care solution for parents and their children.”

Other information contained in the analysis includes:

  • More than 175,000 children in Colorado, or 14 percent, are uninsured — that’s about one in every seven children in the state. The rate is above the national average of 12 percent, or one in every eight children.
  • Most uninsured children — including children living in low-income households — have parents who work. In Colorado, three out of four uninsured children (76 percent) live with someone who works full-time.
  • Since SCHIP began 10 years ago, the number of children living without health insurance has dropped dramatically. Last fiscal year, more than 6 million children in the United States were enrolled in SCHIP.
  • Nearly two out of three uninsured kids (65 percent) in Colorado are in families who earn modest incomes.
  • In Colorado, 65 percent of uninsured kids 5 or younger live in low-income households, as do 70 percent of 6-12 year-old uninsured children and 58 percent of uninsured children aged 13-18.

Perioperative area opens

St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo has opened a 16-room perioperative holding area.

Previously known as same day surgery, the perioperative holding area features private patient accommodations.

The private rooms provide space for family members who want to stay with the patient during the preoperative and postoperative periods. When it is time for surgery, the family accompanies the patient to the operating room and stays in the surgical waiting area.

Cardiovascular guidelines

A new cardiovascular disease guideline helps providers screen and manage patients who are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The guideline, funded by a grant from The Colorado Trust, will be distributed to more than 3,500 clinicians throughout the state and also is available at www.coloradoguidelines.org.

The guideline help doctors determine if a patient is low-, moderate- or high-risk for developing heart disease or stroke. Doctors can use the material to assist patients in lowering their risks by adopting position lifestyle changes, taking preventative aspirin when appropriate and by controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol.

“Our strategy in providing this guideline is for health care providers and public health programs statewide to increase public awareness of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, and to encourage the adoption of behavior changes to reduce those risks and prevent heart disease and stroke,” said Dale Greer, director of the Cardiovascular Disease and stroke Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.