Associations between State Minimum Wage Policy and Health Care Access: A Multi-level Analysis of the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey


Minimum wage policies have been advanced as mechanisms to improve the economic conditions of the working poor. Both positive and negative effects of such policies on health care access have been hypothesized, but associations have yet to be thoroughly tested. To examine whether the presence of minimum wage policies in excess of the federal standard of $5.15 per hour was associated with health care access indicators among low-skilled adults of working age, a cross-sectional analysis of 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data was conducted. Self-reported health insurance status and experience with cost-related barriers to needed medical care were adjusted in multi-level logistic regression models to control for potential confounding at the state, county, and individual levels. State-level wage policy was not found to be associated with insurance status or unmet medical need in the models, providing early evidence that increased minimum wage rates may neither strengthen nor weaken access to care as previously predicted.