Many working people in Schenectady lack health insurance
SCHENECTADY Zachary Breglia is worried about his teeth.
His wisdom teeth grew in crooked, and all four need to be removed surgically, but he doesn’t have the money to have it done. He’s one of thousands of people in Schenectady who work but don’t have health insurance.
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau, called the American Community Survey, indicate the largest number of people in the city who don’t have health insurance are employed.
Many people who are looking for work — but haven’t found a job — have health insurance. The same is true for adults who aren’t looking — generally students or early retirees, according to the survey.
That’s partly because New York allows anyone onto Medicaid if they make less than $750 a month. Those with children are eligible if they make more money.
Breglia, who has three children, could make up to $1,293 and qualify for Medicaid. But at $11 an hour, 40 hours a week, he would make $1,363 after taxes — just over the limit.
It’s not enough for him to buy insurance, but his job doesn’t offer it, either.
More than 5,000 employed city residents are in that same situation, or have chosen not to purchase insurance offered to them, according to the estimates in the American Community Survey.
Breglia works full-time at Shazi Food, a pizza parlor on Altamont Avenue.
“It’s a new business. He’s just opening.” Breglia said, explaining why his boss doesn’t offer health insurance. “He doesn’t have much yet.”
Although Breglia makes too much for Medicaid, his children are covered. But paying for all of his kids’ other needs doesn’t leave him with enough money for his teeth.
He’s getting increasingly worried about it.
“It really hurts,” he said. “It hurts to eat anything.”
The best price he’s found is $2,000. That’s so far out of his budget that he had given up until he heard about the Affordable Care Act.
He’s now hoping he can find affordable insurance for next year.
The American Community Survey also made clear just how little money many households in the city have as they try to make ends meet.
The survey estimated Schenectady has 2,359 households with a total income of less than $10,000.
That includes income and benefits, such as public assistance payments or Supplemental Security Income. Another 2,274 households make between $10,000 and $15,000.
Those two groups account for 18 percent of the households in Schenectady.
“When you see this data, you scratch your head. How do people do this?” said the Rev. Philip Grigsby, executive director of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry. “How do people get by? Well, they come to our [food] pantry. You hope they’re living in subsidized housing.”
Those who are paying full rent while making less than $10,000 are not doing very well, he added.
“It’s very, very difficult,” he said.
Through SICM’s rental deposit program, he said he’s seen how some very poor residents balance rent and other expenses.
“You stop paying rent, and then it takes awhile to evict you, and you save some money and put it down on the next place,” he said.
The survey also showed there are just as many people doing well as there are in poverty in Schenectady.
About half of the families in the city make $50,000 or more, and more than a quarter of the city’s families make $75,000 or more. The top 2 percent make more than $200,000.
The median family income is $49,700. But the city’s median income per worker is far lower, at $24,700.
The survey also found a $3,000 disparity between pay for men and women.
Men who worked full-time, all year, were paid an average of $36,752. Women who worked full-time, all year, were paid an average of $33,525.
Children fared worse. Nearly 40 percent of Schenectady’s children are living in poverty, and among children younger than 5, that shot up to 52 percent.
According to the survey, one parent is slightly more likely to stay home when their children are young and go back to work after they enter school.
The survey found about 40 percent of families had one parent stay home when the children were not old enough for school.
Once children could enter school, both parents were employed in about 75 percent of the families.