The September 2008 EBRI Issue Brief says that in the last half-dozen years, the percentage of individuals with employment-based health benefits decreased from 68.4% in 2000 to 62.2% in 2006; however, compared with 1994, the percentage of individuals with employment-based health benefits is largely unchanged.
“For the most part, the percentage of workers with coverage either from their own employer or from someone else’s employer has been remarkably stable, considering what has happened with the cost of providing health benefits and the fact that fewer small employers offer coverage,” says Paul Fronstin, author of the study and director of the EBRI health research and education program.
The study notes the post-2000 period has experienced an erosion of employment-based health benefits in contrast to the pre-2000 period due to a weaker economy, the unemployment rate increasing from 4% in 2000 to 6% in 2008, and increases in the cost of providing health benefits continuing to outpace increases in worker earnings. However, tracing earlier history, the study notes that from 1994 to 1997 the percentage of working adults with employment-based health benefits held steady at roughly 73.5%, while the cost of providing health benefits to employees was flat. Then, from 1997 to 2000, the percentage of working adults with employment-based health insurance increased from 73.6% to 74.9%.
While the increase in the percentage of individuals with employment-based health benefits from 1997 to 2000 can be attributed to a strong economy and low unemployment rates causing more employers to provide health benefits and more workers to be able to afford health insurance, the study points out the expansion in employment-based coverage occurred even though the cost of providing health benefits to workers was increasing faster than inflation.
Looking ahead, Fronstin anticipates the coverage trend to decrease more since unemployment is higher in 2008 than in 2007, meaning fewer individuals will have access to health insurance through a job, and gas and food prices are higher, meaning more individuals will have to choose between health insurance and basic necessities.
The Issue Brief is at www.ebri.org .