BEN SULLIVAN Staff Reporter

Tis the season for studies, and one of them out last week paints a somewhat ominous picture for local and state health care.

A UCLA study touted as the first comprehensive analysis of California health insurance found that the number of uninsured in the state continues to rise, despite efforts to make coverage more affordable.

A total of 6.6 million Californians, including nearly 2 million children, are without health insurance, the study found, with 84 percent of the uninsured being members of working families. Sixty percent of uninsured adults are full-time employees or dependents of full-time employees, and just 57 percent of Californians have job-based health insurance, compared with 66 percent nationally, the study found.

Conducted jointly by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, the study confirmed that Los Angeles continues to have the largest proportion of uninsured residents in the state and in the nation, with one-third of the county's non-elderly residents without coverage.

In addition, more than one-third of the uninsured surveyed statewide said they did not go to a doctor in 1996, even when they needed care, because of cost.

"Health insurance is simply unaffordable for many people," said Richard Brown, a professor at the UCLA School of Public Health and one of the study's principal authors.

The study found that California health insurance companies use pre-existing conditions and other "individual characteristics" to price premiums and exclude certain people from getting coverage.

A highlight of the study was the success that employer purchasing groups have had with the insurance industry. The cooperatives' premiums dropped overall three years in a row.

Researchers recommended in a supplemental report that the state subsidize low- and moderate-income individuals who must buy their own health insurance, and that tax incentives should be offered to employers to encourage them to offer coverage to their employees.

The UCLA study came on the heals of a national survey conducted by KPMG Peat Marwick that found managed care continues to gobble up the nation's health insurance pie. Three out of four insured U.S. workers received coverage through managed care in 1995, the most recent year for which statistics exist, compared to 50 percent just two years before.

Finally, a benchmark annual survey of managed care released last week states that HMOs intend to raise premium costs to employers 4 percent this year, compared to just 2.5 percent in 1996.


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