Health-Insurance Coverage Rates for US Workers, 1979-2008

The share of workers with health insurance fell from 93.5 percent in 1979 to 83.3 percent in 2008.  If health-insurance rates in 2008 had remained at their 1979 levels, an additional 12.6 million workers would have had health insurance in 2008.  The main reason for the decline in overall coverage rates was the steep drop in employer-provided health insurance.  Between 1979 and 2008, employment-based coverage (through a worker’s own employer or through their spouse or other relative’s employer) decreased 12.4 percentage points.  In 2008, coverage rates varied widely by wage level.  For high-wage workers (the top fifth of all wage earners), only about 4 percent had no health insurance.  For low-wage workers (the bottom fifth of all wage earners), about 37 percent had no coverage.  For middle-wage workers (the middle fifth of wage earners) about 12 percent lacked coverage.

Hye Jin Rho is a Research Assistant and John Schmitt is a Senior Economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.  This report was published by CEPR in March 2010.

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