Fewer workers say they have access to employer-sponsored health coverage.
Paul Fronstin, a researcher at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), Washington, writes about that shift in an analysis of trends in employment-based health benefits over the period from 1997 to 2010.
Fronstin, drawing on government survey data, notes that the percentage of nonelderly U.S. adults with employment-based coverage, either as the employees or dependents, fell to 58.7% in 2010, 62.4%.
The percentage of workers with coverage their own employers fell to 51.5% in 2010, from 54.2% in 2007.
One reason for the drop is that the percentage of employers offering employees health plans fell to 67.5% in 2010, from 70.1% in 2010.
Another reason is that the takeup rate - the percentage of employees taking up the health benefits offered - fell to 83.6% in 2010, from 86% in 1997.
Although more workers reported that they had no access to group health benefits through their employers, fewer at employers with health plans reported being ineligible for the plans.
The ineligibility rate fell to 14.7% in 2010, from 17.2% in 1997.
Frontsin found that workers are more likely to be ineligible because of the type of employee they are and less likely to be ineligible because they are new to their jobs.
The percentage of survey participants ineligible for coverage because of new-employee waiting periods fell to 19.4% in 2010, from 34.8% in 1997.
The percentage ineligible because they were contract employees, temporary employees or part-time workers increased to 76.3%, from 62.7%.
"While it is possible that these trends will change with a rebound in employment rates, even when the unemployment rate fell between 2002 and 2005, it did not appear to have an impact on employer sponsorship of health plans," Fronstin says.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) could change the underlying trends, and, if that's the case, the 1997-2010 figures could serve as baseline for researchers trying to analyze the effects of PPACA, Fronstin says.