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Economic Pressures and the Labor Market
Today, there are over 150 Americans covered as part of an employer-sponsored health care plan and this security blanket is increasingly at risk with an uncertain job market. In fact, today unemployment remains above 10% on the national level and replacement jobs feature many fewer benefits than traditional salaried or union-based positions. The decline in employee benefits is a product of the declining organized labor movement, as Union based employment has fallen below 9% in all sectors (with much higher proportions in the public sector) which is much lower than both the historical average and unionization rates in other developed countries.
According to the AFL-CIO, one of the single largest labor organizers, over 3/4 of all Union workers have some form of health insurance benefits linked to their job. Therefore, the decline in union-based workers has resulted in lower levels of aggregate coverage, especially as more workers return to the labor force as contractors, part-time workers or seasonal laborers in positions which lack benefits. Unemployed workers are able to retain the same coverage rates as their previous health plans for up to 12-months under COBRA, but these workers also must pay for the expenses, co-payments and premium increase of their own pockets.
Affordable Health Care for Families
While unemployment benefits and subsidy programs can help alleviate short-term pressures, health care reform must focus on providing long-term solutions for under-insured families. Under the proposals being considered in the Legislature, health reform is focusing on providing both better access to group rates for individual workers, as well as a public option plan to put downward pressure on premiums. The result of these proposals aims to help independent workers build secure, strong families in the context of economic pressures.