November 10, 1997 in Nation/World

Millions Reject Group Health Insurance Workers Remain Uninsured, Say Cost Outweighs Benefits

Associated Press

Millions of American workers reject health insurance available through their own or a family member’s job, and most remain uninsured, a study shows.

About 6 million workers who could have been covered by job-related plans turned them down last year, Health Affairs, a journal of the health education foundation Project HOPE, said in the study published Monday.

That’s almost 1-1/2 times the number of people who turned down employment group health plans just a decade ago. The number of workers with access to them - 82 million - is roughly the same as in 1987.

The majority of those rejecting coverage, 4.6 million, chose to remain uninsured, the study found. “Workers are deciding that health insurance is not valuable enough to them for the cost,” study co-author Barbara Schone said.

Schone, an economist at the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and research partner Philip Cooper said their findings cast doubt that recent government efforts to decrease the ranks of the country’s 41 million uninsured will work.

Government planners contend it can be done by making worker health insurance universally accessible. But the economists concluded in their report that policies may also be needed that are “aimed at improving the rate at which workers accept coverage.”

For example, some workers might respond better if companies offered more choices, such as less-expensive catastrophic insurance policies that cover only medical emergencies.

The researchers said they did not seek to determine why increasing numbers of people are turning down health coverage offered by employers.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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