Fewer Pennsylvanians insured through employers

    The number of people in Pennsylvania who got health insurance from their employers dropped again this year for the ninth straight year. According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, employers provided health insurance to 876,484 fewer Pennsylvanians in 2008 and 2009 than at the start of the decade.

    According to Chris Lilienthal with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, the number of uninsured spiked during the recession as more people lost their jobs, but that’s not the only cause.

    “Even when we go back and we look at the peak of the business cycle back in 2000 and we compare that to the peak of the latest business cycle in 2007, we still saw a significant and steady decline in the rate of employer insurance,” Lilienthal said.

    Rising insurance costs have meant that fewer employers can afford to offer coverage. Those who continue to offer coverage are more likely to pass more of the associated costs along to their employees.  According to Thomas Getzen, a professor of insurance and health management at Temple University, more employees are deciding to opt out of that insurance.

    “Most employers this year increased not only the amount but the share of the health insurance premiums that employees were asked to pay,” Getzen said. “Everybody’s tightening their bets, there are a couple of people that say I’ll risk it for a year or two going bare.”

    Getzen said it’s hitting low-to-middle-income people the hardest, since insurance costs make up a higher percentage of their paycheck.

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