For the first time in 10 years, the percentage of California residents who had health insurance through their own or a family member's employer fell below 50 percent in 2011, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Meanwhile, the percentage of residents enrolled in public health insurance programs for low-income people grew.
Among people under age 65, 49.7 percent had employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, and 19.1 percent had health insurance coverage through Medi-Cal or the state's Healthy Families program.
The study based findings on one-year estimates from the 2011 California Health Interview Survey.
"We're seeing the toll of two years of high unemployment with the loss of job-based insurance for more than 1 million Californians," Shana Alex Lavarreda, the study's lead author and director of the center's Health Insurance Studies Program, said in a press statement. "With the state still reeling from a 10.2 percent unemployment rate, public health insurance enrollment has expanded to meet the increased need."
In 2001, 56 percent of Californians under age 65 had coverage through their job or their family members' jobs.
Eligibility for public programs grew dramatically during the recent recession because many unemployed Californians' household incomes dropped below the federal poverty level, qualifying adults in those families 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.)
Still, 7 million state residents remained without health insurance in 2011.
The researchers said the opening of state health insurance exchanges and expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility to people whose incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty level should help more people obtain coverage. Both of those events are slated to take place in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.