In the Press

Health Disparities for Lower-Wage Workforce

September 25, 2017

The lower-wage workforce is growing in Massachusetts, leading to a greater disparity in health insurance coverage and health care access. This may be because many lower-wage workers are not offered health coverage by their employers and because those who are offered insurance decline it. 

The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) recently released a research brief, The Benefits Divide: Workers at Lower-Wage Firms and Employer-Sponsored Insurance in Massachusetts. The brief provides insight into employer-sponsored health insurance offered to workers at lower-wage firms in Massachusetts and supports new understanding of health care access among a growing segment of the state's workforce.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The combination of lower offer, eligibility, and take-up rates at lower-wage firms depressed employer-sponsored insurance coverage rates at lower-wage firms (35%) compared to their counterpart firms (59%).
  • While 74% of non-lower wage firms offered health insurance, only 41% of lower-wage firms offered health insurance to any of their employees.
  • Workers at lower-wage firms faced higher purchasing costs and cost-sharing on their employer's health plans.
  • The average deductible was 22% higher at lower-wage firms than other firms ($1,286 vs. $1,050).

The data for this study come from CHIA’s Massachusetts Employer Survey, for which CHIA has contracted with JSI to assist in survey design, data collection, analysis, and reporting. The Massachusetts Employer Survey is critical to CHIA’s mission of monitoring the Massachusetts health care and health insurance systems, and providing reliable information and meaningful analysis for those seeking to improve healthcare quality, affordability, access, and outcomes.

Learn more about the Massachusetts Employer Survey and how JSI is working to reduce health disparities in the United States.