New Yorkers Want Health Insurance Reform

Article excerpt

Most New Yorkers view health insurance and health care costs as important issues that should be addressed by New York's government leaders, and they are willing to pay higher taxes to reduce the number of uninsured, according to a new study by researchers in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management.

"Our research indicates that New Yorkers have strong feelings about health insurance reform," said Kosali Simon, an associate professor of policy analysis and management who leads the project at Cornell. "It will be important to continually gauge opinions of employers and residents as details of reform packages are hammered out at either the state or national level."

Among the key findings:

* Nine in 10 New York residents want the state's elected officials to reduce the number of uninsured and reduce the costs of health coverage and health care;

* New Yorkers support expanding public coverage through existing programs; 60 percent would be willing be willing to pay $50 or more a year to reduce the number of uninsured by 25 percent;

* New Yorkers are open to a range of possible reform options, including a model that shares responsibility among employers, employees, and the government, a single-payer system, and high-deductible health plans.

* A majority of New York employers agree that responsibility for health insurance rests with employers as well as workers above the poverty level, while they cite costs as a major barrier to offering coverage.

* Employers indicate they would be likely to continue to offer private coverage even if public coverage expands. However, they say the availability of public coverage could alter how they do business, for example, by changing decisions about pay raises and eligibility for coverage.

The study, funded by the New York State Health Foundation, reveals the opinions of upstate and downstate New York residents and employers on health insurance reform options. The report provides an important baseline for policymakers seeking to assess the views of New Yorkers and to compare the results of future opinion polls.

"New Yorkers are clearly demanding solutions to the problem of the uninsured," said New York State Health Foundation president and CEO James R. Knickman. "The current economic downturn affirms the link between economic security and health security. We need to keep pushing forward on a health reform agenda now more than ever."

The research is based on the findings from quantitative and qualitative research conducted throughout the spring of 2008.

Quantitative work for this study was conducted by Cornell's Survey Research Institute. The full report, "Informing Health Care Reform Options for New York State," is available online.

An Interview with Kosali Simon

Kosali Simon, associate professor of policy analysis and management, was interviewed for the University of Michigan's online series "On My Mind: Conversations with Economists" about the best way to provide health insurance to employees of small businesses. She discussed the problems and myths about the small group market, as well as highlighting policies likely and unlikely to improve coverage rates for workers employed by small firms. In her work, Simon studies the impact of regulatory programs designed to make health insurance more available for vulnerable populations, including workers in small firms. She is a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a research associate of the Census Bureau. She is the 2007 recipient of the John D. Thompson Prize for Young Investigators. The following is an excerpt from her interview.

What are the biggest reasons that small firms don't offer health insurance to their workers at the rates that large firms do?

"There are a couple of major reasons, including the size of the purchasing group. Small firms face higher administrative costs and lower economies of scale because of their smaller size. …