Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance On the Decline

Paul Krugman and Reed Abelson, writing with the New York Times, recently highlighted a study displaying the trends within the sources of health insurance for nonelderly Americans.  The study, carried out by the National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR), looked at the form of health insurance coverage for Americans from 2001 to 2010.  The study found that the share of Americans under 65 who receive coverage from Medicaid has risen over 8 percent, up from 9.5 percent in 2001 to 17.6 percent in 2010.  This trend illustrates the paradox of government-sponsored insurance in times of a recession; as people begin to lose their jobs and income, they are more likely to fall under the umbrella of Medicaid.  With the diminishing revenue from income tax, however, the state and federal governments have less funds to support Medicaid.  When a recession hits, more people need Medicaid, but there is less money to fund the program.  The NIHCR data displays this trend, but it also shows the rapidly declining percentage of nonelderly Americans who receive health insurance from their employer.  The share of Americans under 65 who receive employer-sponsored coverage is down from 69.8 percent in 2001 to 53.5 percent in 2010.  This severe drop in employer-sponsored coverage can be attributed to the rise in unemployment over the past decade in conjunction with the decline of employers willing and/or able to provide coverage to employees.  The final notable trend illustrated in the NIHCR study was the growing number of uninsured nonelderly Americans.  The share of Americans under 65 who remain uninsured rose from 14.1 percent in 2001 to 19.5 percent in 2010.  The recession clearly had notable impacts on health insurance coverage, but it will be interesting to see how the recently passed Affordable Care Act, which will not be fully implemented until the beginning of 2015, will affect the NIHCR’s numbers in the future.  In addition, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (specifically, the individual mandate) is currently under review by the Supreme Court, so the outcome of the case will also have significant implications for health insurance coverage.

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