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Employer-sponsored health insurance hits new low

The number of Americans getting employer-sponsored health insurance is at the lowest point since President Obama took office, a new Gallup poll released Friday reveals.

At 44.5 percent, the percentage of people getting health care through an employer is just slightly lower than in 2011, but 5 percentage points lower than in 2008. The latest figures come despite the fact that the economy added roughly 1.8 million jobs last year.

Opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) have argued dropping health coverage is an unintended consequence of the law that will negatively affect employees who want to stick with the coverage they know and like.

Estimates have widely varied on just what reform will do to employer-based health coverage. A Deloitte report last summer estimated that one in 10 employers will drop coverage for their employees, while consulting firm McKinsey & Co. drew fire when they stated 30 percent of respondents will “definitely” or “probably” stop offering employer-sponsored health insurance after 2014.

At the same time, Gallup finds more Americans continue to report having a government-based health plan — Medicare, Medicaid, or military or veterans’ benefits — with the 25.6 percent who did so in 2012 up from 23.4 percent in 2008.

Gallup predicts that number will also continue to increase, as reform expands the Medicaid program in 2014 to cover more people, which will likely affect the total percentage of all adults who get their coverage through a government plan.

“Fewer Americans continue to have employer-based insurance than did so in 2008. This appears to be due to two factors: higher unemployment and fewer workers getting insurance through an employer, either because that employer no longer offers it or because the cost is prohibitive for the employee,” Gallup researchers note. “Americans are now more likely to be uninsured or to get their coverage through a government-based program.”

Though the decline in employer-based coverage is apparent for those workers employed full time for an employer or for themselves, the percentage of part-time workers who have employer-based insurance rose in 2012. Gallup notes this group of workers skews young, and young adults — many of whom are either likely still in college and thus can only work part time or are just entering the workforce and struggling to find a job — have become more likely to be insured since PPACA provision allowing those up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans went into effect.

Employer-based health insurance coverage rates have dropped among all major subgroups since 2008, declining the most for middle-income Americans and the least for seniors. Rates have been steadily trending down every year since 2008, Gallup says.

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