Magazine article Workforce Management

More Americans Are Uninsured

Magazine article Workforce Management

More Americans Are Uninsured

Article excerpt

Up by 2.5 million people in 2003

Rising costs force employers to pare, cost-share or drop health benefits

DESPITE A REBOUNDING ECONOMY and a recent surge in job creation, the number of adults without health insurance is climbing. A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June shows that although the national unemployment rate decreased slightly in 2003, the number of working-age adults without health insurance for more than a year rose by more than 2.5 million people, soaring to a total of 24.5 million in 2003. The number is equal to 13.7 percent of the adult population who are under 65.

"Premium costs are having an effect on the calculations employers make about creating new jobs and the calculations they make regarding existing jobs," says Mark Goldberg, senior vice president of policy and strategy for the National Coalition on Healthcare. "The percentage of folks receiving employer-sponsored health care is trending southward."

The report results reveal a distinct trend away from the close relationship between the workplace and employer-sponsored health insurance that has been a tradition in the United States since World War II, analysts say. Double-digit increases in the cost of premiums in each of the last three years-13.9 percent in 2003 alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation-are forcing employers to develop new cost-saving strategies such as hiring part-time or contract workers, passing on a greater percentage of the cost of benefits to employees or dropping coverage altogether. Many small and medium-sized companies can no longer afford the cost of benefits, says Paul Fronstin, chief economist for the Employee Benefits Research Institute. Kaiser reports that in 2003, 98 percent of companies with at least 200 employees offered health benefits-down from 99 percent in 2001while only 65 percent of companies with between 3 and 199 employees did so, down from 68 percent in 2001. …

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