U.S. Public Spends $45 Billion on Health Care and Insurance for Workers

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<p>The public, along with workers, foot the bill when employers fail to provide their full-time employees with health insurance, according to a new Commonwealth Fund study. Eroding employer-sponsored health insurance is costing U.S. taxpayers $45 billion a year, which includes $33 billion to cover public insurance--such as Medicaid or the State Children Health Insurance for Program--for full-time workers and their dependents, and $12 billion for uncompensated health care that would otherwise be covered by the workers' private insurance.<br><br>The study, <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2008/may/who-pays-for-health-care-when-workers-are-uninsured
">Who Pays for Health Care When Workers are Uninsured?</a>, by Columbia University's Sherry Glied, Ph.D., and Bisundev Mahato, finds that 19 million full-time workers and their dependents were uninsured in 2004, compared with 16 million in 1999. As a result, public costs associated with uninsured and publicly insured workers and their dependents were 45 percent greater in 2004 than in 1999.<br><br>In a companion study, <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2008/may/the-widening-health-care-gap-between-high--and-low-wage-workers
">The Widening Gap Between High- and Low-Wage Workers</a>, Glied and Mahato show that low-wage workers--those earning less than $9.80 per hour (in 2003 dollars)--are more likely than high-wage workers to be uninsured. Low-wage workers are less likely to go to the doctor when they are sick, to have a usual source of care, or to receive preventive services such as blood-pressure checks.<br><br>Both studies conclude that falling rates of employer-sponsored coverage are placing an increasing burden on taxpayers, public health insurance programs, and workers themselves--particularly low-wage earners.<br><br><strong>The Commonwealth Fund welcomes your comments on these new studies. Please click on the "Submit a Comment" button on the publication page on our Web site.</strong></p>