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Fewer People Worked for Firms with Health Coverage in 2014, Report Shows

By Keith P. White, CQ Roll Call

August 17, 2015 -- Fewer employees worked for a firm that offers health insurance in 2014, according to an annual report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"Continuing a trend that began in 2008, the percentage of employees working in an establishment where insurance was offered fell from 84.9 percent in 2013 to 83.2 percent in 2014, a decline of 1.7 percentage points," said the report, the agency's annual insurance component of its Medicare Expenditure Panel. Results are based on responses from 39,000 firms nationwide.

The biggest drop in coverage offered occurred among small firms, those with fewer than 50 employees, where the percentage of workers with health insurance dropped to 49.8 percent last year from 53.1 percent in 2013. The percentage for those workers in medium-sized firms (50 to 99 employees) fell to 83 percent from 87 percent in 2013, while those working in large firms (100 employees or more) dropped to 97.3 percent from 98 percent.

For small firms, there were variations among states. In Hawaii, for example, 93.1 percent of workers in those firms said health insurance was offered to them, while in Massachusetts it was 68.1 percent. South Carolina had the lowest offer rate at 33.2 percent of employees of small firms.

Despite the decline in the percentage of workers offered health insurance, the percentage of those who actually enrolled in employer-based plans did not change significantly, the report said, although it declined to 57.8 percent in 2014 from 58.2 percent in 2013.

But one improvement in the numbers showed that more employees last year had a greater choice of plans, with 67 percent being offered a choice between two or more plans, while in 2013, just 59.7 percent had such choices.

Premiums increased slightly, with the national average for single coverage rising 4.7 percent to $5,832 in 2015, for employee-plus-one coverage rising 4.7 percent to $11,504 and for family covering rising 3.9 percent to $16,655.

Those increases followed now well established trends. Since 2003, when the study was begun, to 2014 all premiums have increased substantially, the report said, with single coverage jumping 67.5 percent during that time, employee-plus-one coverage increasing 73 percent and family coverage up by 80 percent.

Finally, in 2014 employees who were enrolled in company health plans paid 21.2 percent of total premiums for single coverage, 26.9 percent for employee-plus-one coverage and 27.1 percent for family coverage. "From 2003 to 2013, employee contributions increased more rapidly than employer contributions," the report noted.

The drop-off in employer-sponsored coverage came as government studies show more Americans are benefiting from the 2010 health care law's coverage expansion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week the number of Americans without health coverage fell by one-third, or 15.8 million people, since 2013, based on a survey of 26,121 people from the first quarter of this year.

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