Report: NM ranks worst for employer health plans

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Mexico ranked worst in the country for the percentage of residents who are covered by health insurance through their employers, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank found that 50.7 percent of New Mexico’s population under 65 years old was covered by employer-sponsored health insurance in 2006-2007 and 59.1 percent of all workers were insured by their employers over the same period, the 22-page report released last week found.

Nationwide, nearly 63 percent of the population under 65 years old was covered by employer-sponsored health insurance and almost 71 percent of all workers were insured by their employers for the same period.

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Public programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program help children and low-income adults, said Eric Griego, executive director at New Mexico Voices for Children, “but there’s little out there for middle-income workers who can’t get or afford coverage through work.

“As the report makes clear, we need a universal program that will make coverage more affordable for all New Mexicans,” he said in a statement.

The report showed that health insurance coverage provided by employers in New Mexico declined slightly since 2000-2001, but the fall was not statistically significant.

Texas (53.5 percent) and Mississippi (53.7 percent) ranked second and third worst respectively among all the states for their employer-sponsored insurance coverage for people under 65 years of age.

Texas ranked second worst at almost 63 percent and Louisiana third at 63.6 percent in the country for the percentage of all workers insured by their employers.

New Mexico also ranked second worst in the nation behind Mississippi for the percentage of children — 46.3 percent — who were insured by an employer-sponsored health plan in 2006-2007. Nationwide, 59.6 percent of children had coverage through an employer for the same period.

Besides New Mexico and Mississippi, the report said less than half the children in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana were covered by employer-provided health insurance.

The report also found disparities in employer-provided health coverage based on race. Employer-sponsored coverage for Hispanics was much lower than for whites.

In 2007, 41.4 percent of Hispanics under age 65 had health insurance through their employers, compared with nearly 71 percent of whites.

The Economic Policy Institute is focused on improving conditions for workers. The report’s author, Elise Gould, wrote that many Americans are falling through the growing gulf between employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and government-run health programs.

“Between 2006 and 2007, public insurance was the only reason that more Americans did not become uninsured as coverage through work fell,” the report said.

With the economic downturn and predictions of unemployment into 2009, further losses in employer-sponsored health coverage are expected, it said.