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Pennsylvania workers losing employer based healthcare

11.18.09

December 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Pennsylvania workers losing employer based healthcare

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 4th- According to a newly released report analyzing United States Census data, employers provided health insurance to 694,471 fewer Pennsylvanians in 2007 and 2008 than at the start of the decade.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, DC and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg jointly released the study which found that Pennsylvania outstripped every state in the nation except Michigan in the loss of employer sponsored health care between 2000-2001 and 2007-2008.

Nationally, the percentage of Americans under age 65 covered by an employer policy fell in each of the past eight years, going from 68.3 percent in 2000 to 61.9 percent in 2008. That amounts to 17 million fewer Americans insured by an employer policy today.

“The strong ink between jobs and health care is eroding. Pennsylvanians who once relied on a job to bring family health coverage increasingly must look for other options,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “Congress must act soon to reform the health care system to make health care more affordable to employers and to families.”

The number of Pennsylvania workers and their dependents with employment-based health insurance fell from 7,929,984 in 2000-2001 to 7,235,512 in 2007-2008, a decline of 694,471. The rate of employer coverage in the commonwealth dropped from 75.9 percent in 2000-2001 to 69.7 percent in 2007-2008, outstripping the national average decline during that period.

Overall, Pennsylvania has a higher rate of employment based coverage than the national average. Among the 50 states and Washington, DC the state ranked 10th in employer coverage rates in 2007-2008.

Still, the rate and number of children without health insurance has bucked overall downward trends in Pennsylvania, remaining the same between 2000-2001 and 2007-2008. For both periods, approximately 200,000 children lacked coverage, making up slightly more than 7 percent of the population.

As is the case nationally, increased enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP compensated for the loss of employment-based coverage for kids. Since 2000-2001, the share of the population with coverage through those public programs grew from 10 percent to 14.3 percent in Pennsylvania.

The study shows a major cause of the decline in employer coverage is the skyrocketing cost of health care, which has made employers less likely to offer insurance coverage to their workers. Given the state of the economy, millions more Americans are expected to lose employer-sponsored health insurance over the next two years which is likely to future strain public programs.

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