Although the number of uninsured workers decreased 1.7 million between 1998 and 1999, a new study from the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) indicates that the economy could push the number of uninsured to 61 million by 2009.
Employers should be concerned about these numbers because of the fact that health insurance coverage affects recruitment and retention. Health coverage has played a big role in hiring and keeping workers, says HIAA President Chip Kahn, but there still are 42 million uninsured, and that figure will swell if the economy deflates, he says.
The study suggested two other possible scenarios:
- economic growth plus moderate health care cost inflation could equate to 48 million uninsured by 2009, and
- rapid economic growth plus rapid health care inflation could equate to 55 million uninsured by 2009.
In a similar study, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports that uninsured children living just above the poverty level decreased from 27.2% in 1998 to 19.7% in 1999. Among all Americans under age 65, nearly 66% (158.4 million) were covered by employers' health plans in 1999, up from 64.9% in 1998.