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Employer Health Coverage in the Empire State: An Uncertain Future

A new survey of New York employers reveals that workers in the state's low-wage firms are less likely to be offered health insurance than workers in low-wage firms nationwide. In addition, they are more likely to face long waiting times, higher premium costs, and less generous benefit packages than their counterparts in non-low-wage and larger businesses in the state. The survey also finds that the majority of New York's larger firms expects to pass on more health benefit costs to employees in the future.

The report, Employer Health Coverage in the Empire State: An Uncertain Future, by Heidi Whitmore, Kelley Dhont, Jeremy Pickreign, Jon Gabel, David Sandman, and Cathy Schoen, was based on the findings from The Commonwealth Fund/Health Research and Educational Trust Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits in New York, 2001.

Although offer rates of employee health care coverage in New York are similar to the nation on average, the state falls behind in coverage of workers in low-wage and small firms. Only 41 percent of low-wage businesses--those where 35 percent or more of workers earn $20,000 or less annually--offer coverage. Fifty-two percent of low-wage firms nationwide offer coverage.

The survey also found that employees of small firms pay more than workers in large firms for their health coverage and get less value in return. Their deductibles are often higher and benefits less broad.

Many employers plan to pass on more health insurance costs to their workers in the future. The survey found that three-quarters (73%) of large employers and more than half (58%) of medium-sized employers said they are likely to shift more costs to workers. If employers act as planned, three of four New York employees with job-based health benefits will see their insurance costs increase.

The authors warn that employer coverage in New York is likely to become less available and less affordable in the next few years.

Facts and Figures
  • Based on reports from employer benefit managers, 41 percent of all firms statewide are very or somewhat likely to increase the amount workers pay for health insurance in the next year.
  • Eighty-four percent of employers think that it is very or somewhat important for public officials to ensure that small businesses can offer health benefits to their workers.
  • Three-quarters of small, low-wage firms are very or somewhat interested in subsidizing workers' participation in public health insurance coverage or state employee coverage programs.

Publication Details



Employer Health Coverage in the Empire State: An Uncertain Future, Heidi Whitmore, Kelley Dhont, Jeremy Pickreign, et al., The Commonwealth Fund, September 2002