U.S. Employer-Based Health Coverage Continues To Decline

A recent Gallup poll showed that 16.3% of adults in the U.S. were uninsured as of February 2011.  And the percentage of Americans who receive health insurance benefits through their employer dropped to a low of 44.6%, the lowest it has been in the past three years.  On the flip side, the percentage of Americans covered by government healthcare programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid or military/veterans’ benefits has been increasing, and now includes a little more than one in four adults.

The primary reason cited for the decline in employer-based coverage is unemployment.  However, many experts also cite the rising costs of healthcare as a key reason why businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones, are increasingly unable to offer benefits to their employees.

Even if a small business does offer healthcare coverage to its employees, its premiums are, on average, as much as 18% higher than are larger group premiums.  In addition, the benefits are oftentimes far less generous, and smaller employers don’t have the resources to pay as much of the premium for their employees as do the larger concerns.  Now add to that the fact that in any small group plan, if just one participant gets really sick, coverage can be dropped for the entire group or become so expensive that no one can afford it.  Is it any wonder the U.S. is facing a serious crisis when it comes to addressing the healthcare needs of hard-working people who just so happen to own or work for small and medium-sized companies?

In an effort to address these issues, the recently passed 2010 healthcare legislation contains a number of provisions that are designed to assist small business owners in their efforts to provide health insurance coverage for themselves and their employees.  First, there are tax credits of as much as 35% available to employers with fewer than 25 full-time employees who are paid an average salary of less than $50K annually.  In addition, the law allows for the creation of healthcare exchanges by 2014, which are designed to reduce costs by diffusing risk among greater numbers of participants in a given state or other region of the country.

Anyone who owns a home-based or other small business, or who is considering going into business for themselves, is advised to read up on the new healthcare law and its provisions to assist small and medium-sized businesses in particular.  For a comprehensive overview of the new healthcare reform laws and how they might impact you as both an individual and an employer, go to https://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/8061.pdf to learn more.