Employers offered health insurance to a higher percentage of workers in 2002 than in 1997, but fewer of the workers who were offered coverage in 2002 took it.[@@]

Paul Fronstin, a health policy researcher at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, has published figures supporting those conclusions in an analysis of government survey data.

The survey figures show that the percentage of workers offered health benefits rose to 71.4% in 2002, from 70% in 1997, while the percentage of workers actually covered rose to 60.7%, from 60%, Fronstin writes.

On the other hand, the percentage of workers actually taking health care coverage when offered declined to 84.9%, from 85.7%, Fronstin writes.

When Fronstin looked at the workers who rejected health coverage offered by their own employers, he found that 20% were completely uninsured for health care in 2002, up from 18.4% 5 years earlier.

Younger workers increasingly chose not to be covered, Fronstin found. For instance, among those 18 to 20 years old who were not covered, 15.6% declined coverage in 2002, up from 9.8% in 1997.

Take-up rates for health coverage were much higher among men (89.4% in 2002) than among women (79.7%).

Less educated workers accounted for much of the increase in workers declining coverage, Fronstin writes.

The percentage of high school dropouts who rejected coverage increased to 18%, from 15%.

Although 75.4% of workers who declined coverage in 2002 said they were covered under someone else’s plan, that percentage was down from 78.6% in 1997.

The percentage of workers who rejected employer-sponsored coverage and ended up without any source of health coverage increased to 20%, from 18.4%.