The Recession’s Toll on Job-based Coverage

The number of Californians who had health insurance through their job or that of a family member fell below 50% for the first time in a decade in 2011, according to a study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. When data for the first California Health Interview Survey was collected in 2001, 56% of non-elderly Californians had employment-based coverage. By 2011, that figure had declined to 49.7%.

At the same time, more  non-elderly adults and children enrolled in Medi-Cal and the state’s Healthy Families program, with one in five insured through these public health insurance programs for low-income Californians in 2011. Eligibility for public programs grew dramatically during the recent recession as many unemployed Californians’ household incomes dropped below the federal poverty level and qualified for Medi-Cal. (In 2011, the federal poverty level was $14,710 for a two-person household and $22,050 for a family of four.) In 2007, 15% of all non-elderly Californians had coverage through public insurance programs. Four years later, the proportion had surged to 19%. However, nearly 7 million state residents remained without health insurance in 2011.

“When the major insurance expansions occur in 2014, the ACA should finally provide relief to the millions of Californians,” said Shana Alex Lavarreda, director of the center’s Health Insurance Studies Program. Many more people should be able to get coverage in 2014 when provisions of ACA go into effect, such as expanding Medi-Cal eligibility to individuals whose incomes are below 138% of the federal poverty level and providing access to a new health insurance exchange, researchers noted. For more information, visit

Last Updated 05/25/2022

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