Employer-sponsored health insurance getting harder to find

By Maryalene LaPonsie on February 28th, 2013

The number of individuals getting their medical insurance through an employer has been steadily declining for the past eleven years. That's according to tracking data maintained by the Economic Policy Institute.

A recent report from the institute finds the percentage of Americans under the age of 65 who receive health insurance coverage through employer-sponsored plans has dropped from 69.2 percent in 2000 to 58.3 percent in 2011.

Decade-long decline in employer-sponsored health insurance plans

The Economic Policy Institute notes some of the decline can be attributed to jobs lost during the recent recession. However, the institute also says the drop began long before the 'Great Recession' hit.

In 2011, workers between the ages of 19 and 64 were 30 percent more likely to be uninsured than workers in the year 2000. If employer-sponsored health insurance coverage had remained at the 2000 rate, approximately 29 million more people would have had insurance in 2011.

At the same time, enrollment in public health insurance options has increased. Public programs provided medical insurance to 25 million more Americans in 2011 than in 2000. The number of children covered by public health insurance plans also increased 14.6 percent during that time period.

Health reform said to help

While finding adequate health insurance coverage can be a challenge for some Americans, the Economic Policy Institute says the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has helped keep some individuals insured. In particular, coverage rates for young adults up to age 26 have improved now that these individuals can remain on a parent's plan.

However, a representative of the institute says health reform can only do so much right now to increase access to affordable health insurance.

"Employer-sponsored health insurance is increasingly failing American families, causing far too many people to fall through the cracks," said Elise Gould, Director of Health Policy Research for the Economic Policy Institute, in a statement. "While provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have helped mitigate the trend…the labor market's insufficient job creation and workers' ever-decreasing bargaining power will likely lead to further losses in employer-sponsored insurance coverage before major relief from health reform materializes."

In 2011, Massachusetts had the second highest level of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage in the nation. According to the institute report, 70.5 percent of those younger than age 65 were covered by employer plans. The state's number is notable in part because Massachusetts has a health insurance law that is credited as being a model for the national health reform legislation. Only New Hampshire had a higher percentage with 72 percent of its population getting medical insurance through employers.

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