Well, I’m finally back from a delightful Thanksgiving hiatus. My wife and I went down to south Georgia to be with my family where it was a good fifteen degrees warmer than it is here in North Carolina. Anyway, after the wonderful effects of the tryptophan subsided, I browsed through the most recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health and found a couple of interesting articles I wanted to summarize here on the blog. I’ll tackle one today and another later this week.
Today’s post takes a look at an article entitled “Health Care Coverage and the Health Care Industry.” You’ll note that they don’t give out awards for creative titles in the peer-reviewed academic literature, which is too bad really, because this study is pretty nifty (that is a scientific term). In the study, Drs. Chou, Johnson, Ward, and Blewett take a look at the insurance status of individuals working in the health care industry. The potential for ironic findings is what drew my attention to the study. Might health care workers be disproportionately uninsured?
Using data from years 2004 to 2006 of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the authors actually find some interesting stuff. Out of 5,192 health care workers, 11% were uninsured–a rate somewhat lower than that seen in the general population. However, health care workers come in different flavors–ambulatory care, hospital-based, and residential care–and each group has a different uninsured rate, with 12.5% of ambulatory care employees uninsured, compared to 4.2% in hospital settings and a staggering 23.1% in residential care. These differences are statistically significant at the 0.001 level.
In a model to predict the likelihood of being uninsured, the authors control for a number of covariates, including age, race/ethnicity, marital status, income, and full-time/part-time status. They find that health care workers who are part-time employmees, under age 50, unmarried, Black, Hispanic, not college-educated, or low-income are significantly more likely to be uninsured.
The take away? Even in the health care industry, employees are subject to many of the same factors that drive disparities in health insurance coverage in other industries. What to do? The authors suggest “creating policies specifically aimed at ensuring that health care workers are adequately insured” because it “will not only help workers themselves but also promote the health of those they serve.” Sounds a little bit generic to me, but then again, I can’t really argue against it. Now, if someone will just give me a grant to replicate this study in a population of health insurance company employees. That’s the study I’m itching to see.