Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured

Posted by on March 29, 2010

Health crisis hits middle class hardest: report

The two recessions that have hit the United States in the first decade of the twenty-first century have taken a significant toll on Americans’ ability to afford health insurance, with middle-class individuals among the hardest hit, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report, Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured, found that the number of uninsured middle-class individuals — those earning roughly $45,000 to $85,000 a year — increased by more than 2 million, to 12.9 million, between 2000 and 2008.

During the same period, the average cost a typical employee paid for a family insurance policy increased by 81 percent, even as median household income fell 2.5 percent after adjusting for inflation.  Also, as the cost of health insurance premiums rose over the decade, some employers stopped offering coverage benefits to employees or changed the criteria for employees’ eligibility.

As a result, by 2008 some 12 percent of Americans worked for firms that did not offer insurance, while 22 percent worked for firms that did but were ineligible for the benefit.

Employer-sponsored insurance has long been the mainstay of health coverage for middle-class families, who typically do not qualify for government insurance programs. Among middle-income Americans, only about half of the decline in employer-sponsored coverage from 2000 to 2008 was offset by government insurance programs. Although declines in ESI were even steeper for individuals who earned less money, those numbers were mostly offset by increases in coverage through government insurance programs such as Medicaid.

To view or download the report, click here.

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