The percentage of adults under 65 with health insurance benefits through their jobs fell during the recession and for the first time in recent history dropped below 60 percent, according to a new report by the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) in Washington, D.C.
In 2009, 52 percent of workers under 65 received health benefits through their jobs, a 2.4 percent drop from 53.2 percent in 2008. In addition, the percentage of workers with coverage as a dependent fell from 17 percent in 2008 to 16.3 percent in 2009, a 4.5 percent drop.
High unemployment is partly to blame. When the employment rate falls, health insurance coverage drops as jobs and the health benefits that came with them are lost, report author Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI's Health Research and Education Program, wrote. In addition, fewer employers offered coverage and fewer workers with access to coverage enrolled in plans as wages failed to keep pace with rising premiums.
The analysis uses data from 2008 and 2009 that were collected in the March 2009 and March 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey.
"As we start to examine the data from 2010, we will be able to determine whether the economic recovery has started to have an effect on health benefits among workers who lost coverage during the recession," Fronstin said in a press statement.