NU Online News Service, Sept. 18, 2003, 4:52 p.m. EDT – Worker participation in disability insurance programs, dental insurance programs and some other types of benefit programs increased between 2000 and March 2003, but participation rates for core life and health programs dropped, according to new national compensation survey results released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite predictions that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks would lead to a boom in group life sales, only 47% of workers at private U.S. employers participated in employer-sponsored life programs in March, down from 54% in 2000.

The share of workers participating in their employers’ medical insurance plans fell to 45%, from 51%, over the same period.

Results from the compensation survey suggest that disability insurers might be having some success at expanding their market, rather than simply stealing business from competitors. The penetration rate for long term disability insurance increased to 28%, from 25%, and the penetration rate for short term disability insurance climbed to 37%, from 33%.

Penetration increased to 32%, from 29%, for dental insurance, and to 19%, from 17%, for vision care insurance.

Access to some kind of employer-sponsored long term care insurance program climbed to 11%, from 7%.

But the shrinkage in medical insurance penetration affected many categories of workers, government researchers report.

Penetration fell to 9%, from 13%, for part-time workers, for example, but it also fell to 50%, from 63%, for “professional, technical and related employees.”

Links to tables summarizing the survey results are on the Web at http://stats.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.toc.htm

Results from the 2000 survey are on the Web at http://stats.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/sp/ebbl0019.pdf

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says it will not be publishing comparable statistics for 2001 and 2002 but will soon start publishing annual compensation survey results for years after 2003.