Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2007 Current Population Survey

October 2007
EBRI Issue Brief #310
Paperback, 36 pp.
PDF, 1,106 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2007

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Executive Summary

• This Issue Brief provides historic data through 2006 on the number and percentage of nonelderly individuals with and without health insurance. Based on EBRI estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS), it reflects 2006 data. It also discusses trends in coverage for the 1994–2006 period and highlights characteristics that typically indicate whether an individual is insured.

Health coverage continues decline: The percentage of the nonelderly population (under age 65) with health insurance coverage continued to decline, reaching to a post-1994 low of 82.1 percent in 2006. Declines in health insurance coverage have been recorded in all but four years since 1994, when 36.5 million nonelderly individuals were uninsured; in 2006, the uninsured population was 46.5 million.

Employment-based coverage remains dominant source of health coverage: Employment-based health benefits remain by far the most common form of health coverage in the United States, consistently covering 60–70 percent of nonelderly individuals. In 2006, 62.2 percent of the nonelderly population had employment-based health benefits, as compared with 64.4 percent in 1994. Between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of the nonelderly population with employment-based coverage expanded. Since 2000, the percentage has declined.

Public program coverage Is stable: Public-sector health coverage was slightly lower as a percentage of the population in 2006, accounting for 17.5 percent of the nonelderly population. The decline was due to a drop in the percentage of the population covered by the Tricare/CHAMPVA program. Enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program increased, reaching 34.9 million in 2006, and covering 13.4 percent of the nonelderly population, which is significantly above the 10.5 percent level of 1999, but not far above the 12.7 percent level of 1994.

Individual coverage stable: Individually purchased health coverage was unchanged in 2006 and has basically hovered in the high 6 and low 7 percent range since 1994.

Private- vs. public-sector coverage trends reversing: Health insurance coverage generally has not sustained unbroken trends since 1994. There were crosscurrents: Employment-based coverage expanded significantly in the 1994–2000 period to exceed the growth in public programs. Subsequently, the dynamic reversed, as public programs expanded while employment-based coverage declined. It appears that 2005 might be the beginning of a new trend, where the erosion in employment-based coverage is not being offset by expansions in public programs. This may be due to the fact that, while unemployment is relatively low, the cost of providing health benefits continues to increase faster than inflation.