Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2009 Current Population Survey

September 2009
EBRI Issue Brief #334
Paperback, 36 pp.
PDF, 502 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2009

Download Issue Brief PDF pdf

Executive Summary

This Issue Brief provides historic data through 2008 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 2009 Current Population Survey (CPS), it reflects 2008 data. It also discusses trends in coverage for the 1994–2008 period and highlights characteristics that typically indicate whether an individual is insured. HEALTH

COVERAGE RATE CONTINUES TO DECREASE: The percentage of the nonelderly population (under age 65) with health insurance coverage decreased to 82.6 percent in 2008. Increases in health insurance coverage have been recorded in only four years since 1994, when 36.5 million nonelderly individuals were uninsured; in 2008, the uninsured population was 45.7 million.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED COVERAGE REMAINS DOMINANT SOURCE OF HEALTH COVERAGE, BUT CONTINUES TO SLOWLY ERODE: Employment-based health benefits remain the most common form of health coverage in the United States. In 2008, 61.1 percent of the nonelderly population had employment-based health benefits, down from 68.4 percent in 2000. Between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of the nonelderly population with employment-based coverage expanded.

PUBLIC PROGRAM COVERAGE IS GROWING: Public program health coverage expanded as a percentage of the population in 2008, accounting for 19.4 percent of the nonelderly population. Enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program increased, reaching a combined 39.2 million in 2008, and covering 14.9 percent of the nonelderly population, significantly above the 10.5 percent level of 1999.

INDIVIDUAL COVERAGE STABLE: Individually purchased health coverage was unchanged in 2008 and has basically hovered in the 6–7 percent range since 1994.

MOST/LEAST LIKELY TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE: Full-time, full-year workers, public-sector workers, workers employed in manufacturing, managerial and professional workers, and individuals living in high-income families are most likely to have employment-based health benefits. Poor families are most likely to be covered by public coverage programs such as Medicaid or S-CHIP.

RETHINKING THE VALUE OF OFFERING HEALTH INSURANCE: Research illustrates the advantages to consumers of having health insurance and the benefits to employers of offering it. In general, the availability of health insurance allows consumers to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering and improves the quality of life, and employers report that offering benefits has a positive impact on worker recruitment, retention, health status, and productivity. Employers may believe in the business case for providing health benefits today, but in the future they may rethink the value that offering coverage provides, especially if health costs continue to escalate sharply or if health reform changes the value proposition.