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(January 29, 2007)

Analysis finds Upstate's reliance on taxpayer-subsidized health insurance grows as employer-provided coverage shrinks

The number of New Yorkers receiving taxpayer-subsized health insurance continues to grow while the number of those with employer-provided insurance continues to decline, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“These findings are a disturbing reflection of our upstate economy and a growing burden to taxpayers statewide,” said David Klein, chief executive officer for upstate New York's largest nonprofit health plan with nearly 2 million customers.

The number of Upstate New Yorkers with employer-provided coverage dropped 2.2 percent between 2000-01 and 2004-05. Employer-provided coverage Downstate, which the report defined as Dutchess and Orange counties and areas south, grew 2 percent during the same period.

“Simultaneous with the downward trend of employment-based health insurance in Upstate New York was a significant growth in government-based coverage,” Excellus said. “According to the Census, an average of 10.9 percent of upstate adults, aged 18-64, had government-based coverage during the two-year period of 2000-2001. For 2004-2005, 15 percent of this group reported getting their health coverage from a government program.”

Downstate areas also experienced an increase in taxpayer-subsidized coverage, though the rate of growth was smaller, the analysis found. “An average of 13.5 percent of adults in that region had government-based coverage during 2000-2001; and for 2004-2005, 16.8 percent of adults reported having government-based coverage.”

Between 2003-2005, 19.8 percent of the state's population went without insurance. The analysis found that most of the uninsured were under 35 and worked full or part time.

In addition, 25 percent of uninsured households during that time period had incomes at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Klein said New York needed to figure out a system that bolstered the economy, while creating jobs with heath benefits that “enhance access to health care and support a quality health care delivery system.”

The analysis echoes the findings of The Business Council's recent member survey, which found that New York employers' number one concern was the increasing cost of health insurance. Thirty percent of the 1090 respondents said health insurance for themselves or their employees was their top cost-of-doing-business concern, and more than 65 percent of respondents ranked health insurance as one of their top four issues.

The analysis is available online at www.excellusbcbs.com/about_us/public_policy_and_research/fact_sheets.shtml.