Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2010 Current Population Survey

September 2010
EBRI Issue Brief #347
Paperback, 40 pp.
PDF, 921 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2010

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Executive Summary

LATEST CENSUS DATA: This Issue Brief provides historic data through 2009 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 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS), it reflects 2009 data. It also discusses trends in coverage for the 1994–2009 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 81.1 percent in 2009. Increases in health insurance coverage have been recorded in only four years since 1994, when 36.5 million nonelderly individuals were uninsured.

UNINSURED INCREASE: The percentage of nonelderly individuals without health insurance coverage was 18.9 percent in 2009, up from 17.4 percent in 2008, and its highest level during the 1994–2009 period. These trends are due to job losses resulting from the recent recession and slow economic recovery, fewer workers being eligible for coverage, and more workers with coverage dropping it.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED COVERAGE REMAINS DOMINANT SOURCE OF HEALTH COVERAGE, BUT CONTINUES TO ERODE: Employment-based health benefits remain the most common form of health coverage in the United States. In 2009, 59 percent of the nonelderly population had employment-based health benefits, down from 68.4 percent in 2000.

PUBLIC PROGRAM COVERAGE IS GROWING: Public program health coverage expanded as a percentage of the population in 2009, accounting for 21.1 percent of the nonelderly. Enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program increased, reaching a combined 44.1 million in 2009, and covering 16.7 percent of the nonelderly population, significantly above the 10.5 percent level of 1999. INDIVIDUAL

COVERAGE STABLE: Individually purchased health coverage was unchanged in 2009 and has basically hovered in the 6–7 percent range since 1994.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2010: 2009 is the most recent year for data on sources of health coverage. Unemployment in 2010 averaged 9.7 percent between January and August and reached a high of 9.9 percent in April. As a result, the nation is likely to see continued erosion of employment-based health benefits when the data for 2010 are released in 2011. Fewer individuals will be working, which means fewer individuals with access to health benefits in the work place, and coupled with uncertainty about the economy, the future of job security, and prospects for health reform, an increasing number of workers are likely to forego coverage when it is available. In addition, COBRA subsidies that were meant to stem the erosion in employment-based coverage expired during the summer of 2010.