Penetration of group health insurance seems to be holding steady, but the likelihood that workers will take up health coverage may be falling.

Researchers at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics published benefits access, participation rate and take-up rate data in a summary of results from the latest private industry employee benefits survey.

The percentage of private industry employees with access to employer-sponsored health insurance plateaued at 71%, while the “take-up rate,” or percentage of private industry employees who actually chose to take up the coverage offered, crept down to 73%, from 74% in 2006 and from 75% in 2005, the BLS researchers report.

Because of a change in BLS methods, the 2007 life benefits penetration figures cannot be compared to life figures from earlier benefits surveys, but the BLS figures show that penetration rates for many other employee benefits have been flat or nearly flat.

The access rate for long term care insurance, for example, is 12% this year, the same as the rate was in 2005 and 2006.

Similarly, the access rate for dental insurance was 46% for the third year in a row.

BLS researchers did find evidence of modest growth in penetration of access to employer-sponsored health savings account, flexible spending arrangement and wellness programs.

HSA penetration increased to 8%, from 6% in 2006 and 5% in 2005.

FSA penetration increased to 33%, from 31% in 2005, and wellness penetration rose to 25% from 23%.

Access to employee assistance programs increased to 42%, from 40%.