August 18, 2006


Speaking of health care, Seamus McGoogle is taking a rest cure.

The Census Bureau reported last year that there were 45.8 million uninsured Americans in 2004, up 800,000 from the previous year.

Employer-provided coverage fell in 2004, a trend that has continued each year since 2000. Without public programs such as Medicaid--recently slashed by the Bush administration and Congress--the numbers of the uninsured would have been higher.

El Cabrero will be pleasantly surprised if the numbers improve much when new figures for 2005 are released August 30.

Meanwhile, the declining number of Americans who receive health insurance through their employer are paying more for it.

According to the Economic Policy Institute,

Fewer employees receive health insurance through their employers now than in the past, as coverage has declined from 61.5% in 1989 to 58.9% in 2000 and down to 55.9% in 2004 (the latest data available). Less well known is the fact that those who still receive employer-provided coverage are now paying a larger share of those insurance costs.

In 1993, 54% of private sector workers with insurance paid some of the costs. By 2005, the number had grown to 76%. Nearly 90% of workers with family coverage had to pay part of the premium themselves.

The employee share of premium payments grew from 14% in 1992 to 22.1% in 2005. The EPI report notes that "This shift onto employees for basic premium costs does not include any of the higher deductibles or co-pays paid by employees that also have occurred over this same period."

While this shift of insurance costs has hurt working families, it's no picnic for employers who provide coverage either. It's hard for many employers to compete with firms in countries where health care is a right rather than a commodity.

A system of universal health care would not only reduce needless human suffering, it would also make it easier for US businesses to innovate and compete in a global economy.


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