The littlest uninsured
A record 47 million Americans did not have health insurance last year, while the percentage of children without insurance rose for a second consecutive year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released at the end of August.
The census data showed that 8.7 million American children were uninsured last year — 1 million more than in 2004, according to the data.
Compared with 2005, the number of uninsured Americans rose 5 percent last year to 47 million, due in large part to cutbacks in employer-sponsored health coverage. It also found that 11.7 percent of U.S. children under 18 lack health insurance, compared with 10.9 percent in 2005.
Nationally, the percentage of uninsured children had fallen over a five-year period beginning in 1999 because of the expansion of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. Medicaid generally covers people living below the official income poverty line, set at $20,650 for a family of four.
But in the last two years, according to analysts, those two safety net programs could not keep up with the steady national decline of private, employer-provided health care plans. In 2000, nearly 66 percent of children nationwide were covered by those programs, compared with fewer than 60 percent last year, according to census figures.
—courtesy Street Roots, Portland, OR
Grocery workers bag a win
The decline of workplace health insurance isn’t a cause for concern among local United Food and Commercial Workers members working at Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Albertson’s, at least not for now. The stores signed a new three-year contract with UFCW Locals 21, 44, and 81 last week that shores up employee health plans, lowering co-pays and offering preventive care at no charge to more than 20,000 Puget Sound grocery workers and their families.
The new contract also extends health coverage so that same-sex domestic partners are treated just like spouses; it emphasizes generic prescription drugs, and lowers the co-pay on them.
At some locations, management will give workers greater notice of the shifts to which they’re assigned. So-called family-friendly scheduling “is the most important” outcome of the five-month negotiation, says UFCW Local 21 spokesperson Jackie O’Ryan. “People need the kind of schedule where they can raise kids — where they can know in advance when they’ll be working, so they can schedule parent-teacher conferences and doctors’ appointments.”
Several Real Change vendors got unexpected checks in the mail from the state Department of Social and Health Services last week. No lotto winners here: each was for the whopping sum of $1.