Fewer Illinoisans get health insurance at work

CHICAGO – The percentage of Illinoisans who get health insurance through the workplace has declined, according to a report released Thursday that found similar drops nationwide with the country on the verge of overhauling the health care system.

Rising costs mean fewer employers are offering health benefits and fewer workers are accepting coverage, even when it’s available, the report’s authors said.

The analysis, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 11.5 million fewer Americans received health insurance through an employer or a family member’s job in 2011 than in 2000.

Americans will be required to have health insurance beginning Jan. 1 under the federal health care overhaul. Illinois and the federal government will offer an online health insurance marketplace where many people will be able to get tax credits to help pay for coverage.

In Illinois, the report found the portion of non-elderly residents with health insurance through their jobs dropped from 74 percent in 2000 to 62 percent in 2011. Seniors were excluded because they qualify for coverage through Medicare.

The number of Illinois residents insured through work dropped by 1.2 million over the decade to 6.9 million.

In contrast, more young adults are covered through employer-sponsored insurance. The researchers attributed that to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows children to stay on their parents’ health policies until age 26. In Illinois, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds covered by a workplace plan climbed from 37 percent to 41 percent.

Costs are climbing. The average dollar amount of employee premium contributions more than doubled. In Illinois, employee premium contributions for a single-person health plan grew from $495 to $1,164. For a family policy, employee contributions rose from $1,623 to $3,869.

Lower-income Illinoisans were more likely to be affected by the decline in employer-sponsored health insurance. In Illinois households with annual incomes at or above about $89,400 for a family of four, employer-sponsored health insurance rates dropped just 3.3 percentage points. In households with incomes below $44,700 for a family of four, it dropped by 12.4 percentage points.

Since workplace health insurance steadily declined over the decade, the report’s authors said it’s unlikely that the health care law contributed to the trend.

“The report documents a decline that has been occurring steadily since well before the ACA’s passage in 2010,” said Julie Sonier of the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center, which prepared the report. “In addition, the major coverage provisions of the ACA will not go into effect until 2014.”

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