Health Coverage Costs Up but Access is Historically Level

January 23, 2008 ( - Data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) shows that even though employers are shelling out a lot more for health coverage, availability for workers has stayed mostly level in recent years.

However, the biggest change is that the number of employers providing retiree health benefits has suffered a precipitous decline. EBRI said 12.7% of private-sector employers covered retirees in their policies in 2007, down sharply from the 21.6% which did so in 1997.

According to an EBRI news release,the cost of employment-based health benefits doubled from 2000 to 2007, while wages and overall inflation increased only 25%. The growth rate in the cost of providing health benefits fell from 13.9% in 2003 to 6.1% in 2007, but continued to run double that of workers’ earnings and the rate of overall inflation.

Workers also paid more for their share with average premiums for employee-only coverage increasing from $28 to $52 per month from 2000 to 2006, an 86% hike. Average family-coverage premiums increased from $138 to $248 per month from 2000 to 2006, an 80% increase.

While workers’ premiums payments increased, their percentage share in premium amounts decreased. According to EBRI,workers paid an average of 20% of the premium for employee-only coverage in 1993 while, by 2007, workers were paying 16%.

Workers paid more than 30% of consumer health care expenses out of pocket in the mid-1990s while, by 2005, worker out-of-pocket spending as a percentage of total consumer health care spending fell to 26%, EBRI said.

The EBRI data also showed that the number of covered employees is largely unchanged from the mid-1990s and only down slightly from the late 1980s. In 2005, 74% of workers who were not self-employed reported they were eligible for health benefits through their own job, up slightly from 73.6% in 1995.

Between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of workers with health benefits through an employer held steady between 73% and 75%. Since 2000, the percentage of workers with health benefits has fallen to about 71%.

Finally, EBRI said, take-up rates for employment-based benefits have fallen from nearly 88% in 1988 to 83.5% in 2005 among workers with benefits from their own employer, but fewer than 5% of workers eligible for health benefits were uninsured.

The full report is here .