The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Heath Care Gap Larger than Thought, Study Finds

by Brendan Coyne

Dec. 6, 2005 – Official government estimates of the number of United States residents without health insurance may be severely understated, according to a report released yesterday by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonprofit research group. The new information shows that those in the now-substantial employment margins are less likely to be insured than society as a whole, adding to a mountain of evidence that current economic policies have worsened the lot for those already suffering from economic inequality.

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The report, "Nonstandard Jobs, Substandard Benefits," funded in part by the Department of Labor and The Commonwealth Fund, found that the number of marginally employed people with health insurance is much lower than previously reported. Additionally, other work-related benefits were found to be missing or negligible for temporary, contract and part-time workers.

At least 25 percent of the nation’s workforce toiled in a "nonstandard" job in 2001, continuing a trend in national employment, according to the study. Of those, around a quarter have no health insurance. Just over a fifth of these unconventional arrangements include even partial payment of insurance premiums by the employer.

By comparison, about 12 percent of full-time workers lack health insurance, with 74 percent receiving it through their employer, the report noted. In addition, the report found that nonstandard workers are much more likely to choose government-provided health insurance, by a 5-1 margin over people with full employment.

According to the most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services, about 16 percent of the population is uninsured. Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the subset, making up a full 30 percent of those lacking health coverage, despite making up around 14 percent of the overall US population.

There are an estimated 34.3 million people who fall into the nonstandard worker category, and the number is growing. According to Rand Corporation projections, employers will continue the trend of using unconventional work arrangements into the foreseeable future, even in higher-paying jobs.

The effect, according to the IPP analysis, will be fewer people with employer-paid health insurance and other job benefits and more people seeking government assistance. Researchers warn that the new employment trends foretell an ominous state of affairs for workers.

"There are broader implications as well to these trends," study co-author and IPP research director Peter Fisher said in a statement. "Increasing use of nonstandard workers shifts bargaining power to the employer because all workers see their ability to negotiate higher wages and better benefits eroded."

Though the report did not estimate how many uncounted uninsured people there are in the nation, it maintained that throughout the year as many as 80 million or more go without insurance for a period of time.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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