By Erik Derr (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Apr 11, 2013 03:24 PM EDT

(Photo : Creative Commons)

Lower employment rates coupled with skyrocketing premiums have left fewer Californians with company-provided health insurance than there were a decade ago, the Associated Press is reporting.

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A new report by health care analyst Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that the number of Californians receiving employer-sponsored insurance dropped by 1.3 million, or 8.4 percent, since the early 2000s.

An estimated 18.9 million people, which covered 62 percent of the state's non-elderly population, had employer-sponsored health insurance in 2000.

But, according to data from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, an independent health policy research center at the University of Minnesota, by 2011 the number of Californians insured through their employers had decreased to 17.6 million, or 53 percent of California's non-elderly population.  

Seniors were excluded from the survey because they have access to insurance through Medicare.

"Higher costs naturally translate into fewer employers offering insurance coverage, and fewer employees accepting it, even when it is offered," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told the AP. "That is why it is so important that people have options for purchasing affordable health insurance that meets their needs."

The drop in California mirrors a national decline in which 60 percent of Americans received coverage through a job in 2011 --- 11.5 million fewer people than in 2000.

At the same time, the general cost of health insurance is rising.

The average premium for an annual, employer-sponsored family insurance plan in California more than doubled from $6,033 in 2000 to $14,828 in 2011. The average annual premium for single coverage rose from $2,259 to $5,033.

The report notes that even with the federal health care changes expected with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act --- through which uninsured Americans will be able to sign up for subsidized private health plans through new insurance markets --- employer-sponsored insurance will continue to be a major source of coverage.

California has a lower rate of employer-sponsored coverage and one of the nation's highest rates of uninsured residents not in small part because of the state's large agricultural and tourism industries, explained Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a group that lobbies for health care for the poor.

"The fact that we had less of a decline may simply be because we're starting from a lower place already," he said. "The hope is that the Affordable Care Act stabilizes employer-based coverage and provides an option and an alternative for those who don't get coverage on the job." 

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