Workplace Health Coverage Reported Declining

September 23, 2010 ( – The ranks of Americans with employment-based health insurance declined by more than 2% last year, according to a new Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).analysis.

An EBRI news release said the percentage of individuals under age 65 with employment-based coverage, based on calculations from U.S. Census Bureau data, declined from 61.1% in 2008 to 59% in 2009—its lowest level in the 15-year period between 1994 and 2009. Employment-based coverage is still the dominant source of health coverage, the report said.

The decline between 2008 and 2009 accelerated a long-term trend that has occurred during most years since 2000. The number of individuals under age 65 who did not have health insurance increased to 18.9% in 2009, up from 17.4% in 2008, EBRI said.

“These trends are due to job losses resulting from the recent recession and the slow economic recovery, fewer workers being eligible for health insurance coverage, and more workers with coverage choosing to drop it,” said Paul Fronstin, author of the EBRI report. “With unemployment remaining high, these trends are almost certain to continue when the data are released for 2010.”

Fronstin noted that fewer individuals are likely to be working this year, which means fewer with access to health benefits in the workplace. Federal COBRA subsidies that were meant to stem the erosion in employment-based coverage expired during the summer of 2010. “Coupled with uncertainty about the economy, the future of job security, and prospects for health reform, an increasing number of workers are likely to forego health coverage when it is available,” Fronstin said.

The EBRI report also indicated that public program health coverage expanded as a percentage of the population in 2009, accounting for 21.1% of the nonelderly.

Enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program increased, reaching a combined 44.1 million in 2009, and covering 16.7% of the nonelderly population, significantly above the 10.5% level of 1999. Finally, individually purchased health coverage was unchanged in 2009 and has basically hovered in the 6% –7% range since 1994.

EBRI’s estimates of the uninsured are slightly higher than those published by Census Bureau because EBRI counts only individuals under age 65.

The full research report is available here.