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Wage gaps pose health risks, says study

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NEW YORK, Oct 06, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The New York-based Commonwealth Fund says wide wage gaps between the haves and have-nots will also deny low-wage earners access to essential health care.

The fund's report says the wage gap not only threatens the economic security of millions of low-wage workers without health benefits but also affects their access to basic health care.

Low- and moderate-wage workers, who earn less than $15 an hour (about $30,000 a year for a full-time worker), are more likely to lack health insurance coverage through their employers and are more likely to lack other benefits such as paid sick days, the report said. This leaves them even more vulnerable to economic and health problems.

If these low-wage workers without sick leave do seek health care, they lose pay for taking time off from work for a doctor visit. But if they are too sick to work, they also lose pay. The situation contributes to lower rates of health care access and poorer health status for low-wage workers, the report said.

The report said two of five workers in the lowest-compensated jobs experienced access problems. Those include not filling a prescription or not seeing a doctor when sick, or skipping a test, treatment or follow-up test.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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