Report: 66% of Iowans covered by employer-sponsored health plans

Changes in workforce, insurance costs for employees factors in decline

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The number of Iowans covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans has declined 10.8 percent in the past decade, to about two-thirds of the state's population under the age of 65, according to a new report.

The Economic Policy Institute report shows the share of all Americans under age 65 with health insurance through their jobs dropped by 10.9 percentage points over the decade from 2000 to 2011 to 58.3 percent. Employer-sponsored health insurance coverage eroded each year over that period.

The percentage of Iowans with employer-sponsored coverage, at 66.1 percent, is notably higher than the national rate. Research consultant Colin Gordon of the Iowa City-based Iowa Policy Project noted that the rate of decline was more rapid in Iowa over the past decade than it was nationally, however.

The trend reduced the number of insured workers and family members in Iowa by over 150,000 since 2000. Over 100,000 of those affected have been under the age of 18, Gordon said, adding to the demands on the state's Hawk-i insurance program for children.

Of those, net loss of over 150,000 insured workers and family members. Over 100,000 of that number have been under the age of 18, placing more demands on the state's Hawk-i insurance program for children.

Gordon indicated the trend is not due solely to employers dropping health insurance coverage. He cited changes in employer health plans to raise the share employees and their families must pay for medical care and coverage, and job market forces that are creating more jobs in fields that traditionally don't offer health insurance as a benefit.

In previous reports, the Iowa Policy Project has also highlighted the trend toward more use of independent contractors and subcontractors to perform work as a factor fueling the decline in health insurance coverage.

Elise Gould, author of the Economic Policy Institute report, said the trend, when viewed against the spike in unemployment during the latest recession, illustrates the extent to which Americans are dependent on employment for health insurance.

The percentage of children who receive health insurance through their parents' employers declined 12 percent over the period, Gould noted. The overall impact of that trend on children was dampened by state health insurance programs for children, such as Iowa's Hawk-i.

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