Health Care Act

Losing your health benefits? Analysis blames the recession

Originally published Feb. 17, 2015.

If your employer provides health insurance, you're probably paying more for less – and wondering who's to blame. The Affordable Care Act has contributed to rising costs by mandating certain types of coverage, allowing many adult children to stay on parents' policies and levying a 2018 tax on high-cost "Cadillac plans."

But the trend toward reducing benefits and dropping health insurance altogether was in full swing before the act kicked in this year, according to a recent analysis by the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Before the recession, the research shows that employer coverage was fairly stable. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09, for instance, North and South Carolina, like most of the country, saw no significant change in the percent of employers offering health insurance. But the rates dropped from 2008-09, the start of the recession, to 2012-13. In North Carolina it went from 53 percent to 47 percent, and in South Carolina from 54 percent to 47 percent. Most of that decline has come from companies with fewer than 50 employees.

That's consistent with what I've heard. For instance, I wrote last fall about Charlotte's Blue Max Materials, a small employer, dropping health insurance in the face of rising costs. Meanwhile, the owner of Stafford Cutting Dies bumped up deductibles dramatically to cope with skyrocketing costs for a small-business policy.

“Most Americans still get health insurance through their jobs, but this has been declining for more than a decade,” said Katherine Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the foundation. “It will be interesting to see how that trend evolves now that there are more opportunities for coverage through the individual market and Medicaid.”

The report includes detailed breakdowns for each state.