NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Employer Based Health Insurance Coverage Declining

June 14, 2001

The number of Americans who get health insurance coverage through their employer has steadily declined since the 1970s, according to a new study from the Commonwealth Foundation. The decline was greatest among those with low-wage jobs.

The study looked at trends over a 19-year period from 1979 to 1998. Among the findings:

  • In 1979, two-thirds of Americans had health insurance coverage through their employer.
  • By 1998, that number had shrunk to 54 percent.
  • Blue-collar workers over the same time period went from 64 percent coverage to 43 percent, while those in the bottom fifth of the hourly wage scale went from 42 percent coverage to 26 percent.

The study also found that the shift from a manufacturing to a services based economy cannot explain all the declines, since declines were seen in every industry.

Source: James L. Medoff et al. (National Policy Center), "How the New Labor Market is Squeezing Workforce Health Benefits," June 2001, Commonwealth Fund.


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