Older Individuals Least Likely to be Uninsured

April 11, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In recent testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research and Education Program at the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), reported that despite the vulnerabilities older individuals face when it comes to health insurance coverage, they are the least likely age group among adults to be uninsured.

A recent Fast Facts from EBRI said in 2006, 12.7% of individuals ages 55 – 64 were uninsured, compared to 17.9% across all ages. Workers ages 55-64 have experienced a slight erosion in health insurance coverage and a slight increase in the likelihood of being uninsured, but there has been no erosion in health insurance coverage rates among retirees ages 55-64.

In 2006, 78.4% of workers ages 55-64 were covered by an employment-based health plan, down from 80.1% in 2003, but higher than the levels seen in the late-1990s, according to the report. The percentage uninsured increased from 9.7% in 1999 to 11.1% in 2006.

The percentage of retirees ages 55-64 with employment-based health benefits from either a former employer or spouse bounced between 56% and 60% from 1994 to 2006. During this time, the uninsured rate for this group ranged between 13.6% and 16.4%, the report said.

Since the mid-90’s retirees ages 55-64 are more likely to get employment-based coverage through another family member and less likely to get it through a former employer. The percentage of retirees with coverage through a former employer was at 35.4% in 2006, the lowest level since 1994 except during 2000. Meanwhile, the percentage of retirees with coverage through a family member was 22.6% in 2006, the highest level since 1994.

Overall, the percentage of workers reporting that they have access to health benefits through their job is largely unchanged from the mid-1990s. In 2005, 74% of workers who were not self-employed reported they were eligible for health benefits through their job, compared to 73.6% in 1995.

Among all individuals under age 65, 62% were covered by an employment-based health plan, with 70.9% of working adults covered, 37.5% of nonworking adults covered, and 57.1% of children covered.

Fronstin’s testimony is available here .