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AHRQ Survey Examines Employees' Costs for Health Care

By Frances Symes, CQ Staff

September 2, 2008 -- Workers at large private-sector companies are more likely to be required to pay for their individual health coverage than workers with small private-sector companies, according to a survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Of the 112.2 million private-sector employees in the United States, 86.9 percent work in firms where employer-sponsored health insurance is offered. According to the survey, 62.5 percent of private employees in 2005 were enrolled in company-offered health insurance plans.

The survey, called the Insurance Component of the 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, draws a strong distinction in health coverage and premium payment between small and large firms (50 employees being the cutoff). An AHRQ release stated that less than half—48 percent—of workers at small private sector-companies contribute to monthly premiums, while 86 percent of workers at large companies were required to pay for individual coverage.

The survey also showed a difference in contributions between employees seeking single coverage and those seeking family coverage. At small firms, 64 percent of employees contributed to premiums for family coverage, while 91 percent contributed at large firms.

In a comparison of 10 states with high populations, California had the highest percentage of employees in both small and large firms who didn't contribute to premiums for individual coverage, with only 37 percent contributing to premium payments in small firms and 73 percent contributing in large firms.

Small businesses have expressed their concerns about rising health care costs, however. Todd Stottlemyer, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, said small businesses often cite the cost and availability of health care as the number one problem they face.

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