A growing number of U.S. employees are declining job-based health insurance as coverage costs have continued to escalate over the past five years, according to one of two related studies released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J. The study found that 3 million fewer eligible workers signed up for employer-sponsored coverage in 2003 than in 1998. That represents a 5 percentage-point decline, from 85.3% in 1998 to 80.3% in 2003. In both 1998 and 2003, employees paid an average of 18% of the annual premium for individual coverage, while employers covered the remaining 82%. But the cost burden for both has climbed, as annual premiums increased 42%, from $2,454 in 1998 to $3,481 in 2003, after adjusting for inflation. The study was conducted by the University of Minnesota's State Health Access Data Assistance Center, using data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's annual Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
According to the second study, cost is the main reason people without health coverage are uninsured, and virtually all uninsured adults want to be covered. Some 54% of uninsured adults nationwide said they lacked coverage because it costs too much, while about one-fourth attributed their lack of coverage to the loss or change of jobs, the study found. The study was compiled by the Urban Institute, Washington, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2004 National Health Interview Survey. -- by Laura B. Benko