Seventy-five percent of low-wage workers lack access to employer-provided healthcare coverage says a new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), while nearly 40 percent have no health insurance whatsoever, private or public — up from 16 percent in 1979. The Health-insurance Coverage for Low-wage Workers, 1979-2010 Beyond report, which was authored in conjunction with the Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, notes that over the past 30 years, employer-provided insurance has declined for all workers, but low-wage workers have been hit hardest. In 2010, only 26 percent had health insurance through their employer, while in 1979 the number was at a solid 43 percent.
Coverage through public insurance programs has been the only area where low-wage workers have experienced any improvement, with 10 percent gaining coverage through Medicaid, which is double 1979’s rate of 5 percent.
For the purposes of the study, low-wage workers are identified as people in the bottom 20 percent of hourly pay.
The report also estimates the future effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on insurance rates for low-wage workers using outside projections and the experience of the Massachusetts state health system, which shares many similarities with the ACA. The report concludes that the full implementation of the ACA — particularly the expansion of the Medicaid program — will slice non-coverage rates for low-wage workers in half from nearly 40 percent to somewhere below 20 percent.