Two sets of analysts have come out with conflicting assessments of the U.S. employer-sponsored health benefits market.
Frederic Blavin and other health policy specialists at the Urban Institute say results from the institute’s own survey program show that use of employer-sponsored health coverage held steady between June 2013 and September 2014.
Analysts at Mark Farrah Associates say they believe — based on official carrier enrollment filings, extrapolations from carrier filings, and other data sources — that enrollment in employer-sponsored health plans has fallen in the past year, and that a modest increase in enrollment in self-insured plans has obscured a substantial drop in enrollment in fully insured group health plans.
Analysts are watching enrollment figures carefully to see how the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance rules, public exchange program and Medicaid expansion program are affecting traditional individual and group commercial health coverage.
The Mark Farrah analysts use quarterly enrollment figures for carriers that file enrollment data on a quarterly basis, but they use extrapolations from enrollment figures filed at the end of 2013 for the other carriers. They also use a variety of other data sources.
They estimate that enrollment in individual commercial health coverage arrangements of all kinds, including policies sold through the public exchange system, increased 44 percent between Sept. 30, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, to about 18 million.
They estimate that enrollment in fully insured employer-sponsored group health plans may have fallen about 9 percent, to about 54 million, but that enrollment in employer-insured self-insured plans may have increased about 3 percent, to about 101 million.
Blavin and his colleagues say they think the percentage of nonelderly workers who have access to employer-sponsored health coverage held steady at about 82 percent between the time of the institute’s June 2013 survey and the Sept. 2014 survey.
The percentage of nonelderly workers who took up the coverage offered increased to 87 percent, from 86 percent.
The percentage of nonelderly workers who said they actually had employer-sponsored health coverage held steady at 71 percent. The percentage of workers with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level who reported having employer-sponsored coverage increased to 33 percent, from 31 percent.