Cost Deters Many Uninsured Californians

The perceived steep cost of health insurance deterred nearly half of Californians who went without coverage in 2014, a new study reports.

Roughly two-thirds of the state’s uninsured in 2014 were actually eligible for coverage, but many did not enroll because they believed it would cost too much, according to researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

About 46 percent of this group said they didn’t sign up because they thought it was too expensive.

The other third of uninsured Californians were ineligible for coverage due to their immigration status, the study found.

Researchers used data from the California Health Interview Survey.

Many of the uninsured didn’t realize that they qualified for free or subsidized coverage, the report states.

“We’re a relatively high cost-of-living state,” Miranda Dietz, a researcher at UC Berkeley and the lead author of the study, said in a release. “It’s no wonder some Californians, who may be unaware they qualify for health subsidies and other programs, still find the cost of health insurance out of reach. For people who are already stretched paying their rent, filling the car to get to work and feeding the kids, figuring out how to come up with more money for health care on top of that is a lot to handle.”

About 28 percent of California’s uninsured in 2014 were eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program. Another 31 percent of uninsured residents qualified for a federal subsidy to help offset the cost of purchasing insurance on the state’s health exchange, Covered California.

About 9 percent of the state’s uninsured who were eligible to buy insurance on Covered California didn’t qualify for a subsidy.

In a release, researcher Nadereh Pourat urged the state to also extend health coverage to undocumented adults.

“From an economic perspective, it’s bad business to rely on workers and then not offer them equal health protection,” said Pourat, a co-author of the study and the director of research for the UCLA center. “And from a humanitarian perspective, it’s just wrong.”

Since 2014, when the study’s data was collected, many previously uninsured Californians have enrolled in coverage, the authors note.

“Further reductions in the number of uninsured will require targeting enrollment efforts to population characteristics and policies to address the persistent barriers of affordability and eligibility,” the study states.

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