As most of us struggle through the last days of open enrollment, we thought we’d share an article we came across in The Wall Street Journal this week about an interesting phenomenon in New York state. It must be a sign of the times because although good employer-based group health insurance has been the standard for health benefits in the United States for decades, a shrinking pool of New Yorkers are getting their health insurance through their employers:
Meanwhile, the private sector is sagging under the cost of providing health care, with 66 percent of companies saying they are struggling a great deal or somewhat to maintain coverage for employees. One in 5 companies avoided hiring because of health care costs, according to the study’s survey, and 1 in 4 companies either reduced or froze wages to pay for health care.
The report from the New York State Health Foundation said just 58 percent of New Yorkers are now covered by employer-sponsored health care. That’s down from 69 percent in 2001 after decades of gains.
Although 70 percent of employers continue to offer health care coverage in New York, fewer employees are eligible for the coverage, more costs have been shifted to workers often faced with fewer choices of care, and fewer employees are choosing to buy into coverage that’s available.
“Employer-sponsored health insurance is an eroding pillar of our coverage system,” said James R. Knickman, president and CEO of private foundation NYS Health. The group sought the study by the independent research National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
“New York should be leading the nation instead of following it,” Knickman said. “The sharp decrease in employer-based health insurance is a wake-up call to both publicly and private sector leaders of the need to shore up the foundation of our insurance system.”
The study also found that in 2009 health insurance premiums increased 7.3 percent in New York state and that 66 percent of companies in the state stated they were struggling to afford health insurance to their workers.
Of course, the question is whether this is one blip during an economic downturn or will this become a trend across the nation. Will most of us be buying our health insurance through a health insurance exchange by 2014?
We don’t know yet, but we’ll be keeping an eye on whether these health insurance coverage numbers continue dropping.
Do you get your health insurance through your employer? Tell us about it!
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