Number of Insured Americans Seen Declining

October 29, 2002 ( - A weak economy and steadily rising health care costs have sparked a decline in the percentage of American workers getting health insurance as an employment benefit, according to an industry study.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study found that the declining coverage trend hit hardest at companies with 25 or fewer workers, which dropped health coverage or forced employees to ante up more than before to fund the benefit.

EBRI said 62.6% of Americans or 176.6 million people were covered by employer health benefits during 2001, down from 63.6% and 177.8 million in 2001 – the first such decline since 1993.

EBRI said the number of uninsured Americans increased from 39.8 million to 41.2 million in 2001, while the portion of the overall population increased from 14.2% to 14.6%.

The percentage of the population covered by public programs increased in 2001.

The percentage of Americans covered by Medicaid increased from 10.6% to 11.2%, while the percentage covered by Medicare remained unchanged at 13.5%, and the percentage covered by Tricare/CHAMPVA programs and other government programs for retired military members and their families remained virtually unchanged at 3.4%, according to EBRI.

Nonetheless, the overall rate of uninsured children was unchanged, suggesting that the expansion in public plan coverage was offset by a decline in employment-based health benefits, EBRI said.