BLS Survey: Employer-Provided Medical Plans Too Burdensome for Some

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey program indicates that higher wage full-time workers are considerably more likely than lower wage full-time workers to have access to employer-provided medical plans and to participate in such plans when they are offered to them. The survey defines lower wage workers as those who earn less than $15 per hour and higher wage workers as those who earn $15 or more per hour.

Three different rates are calculated to measure health insurance benefits: the access rate, the participation rate, and the take-up rate. The access rate is the ratio of employees in surveyed jobs who are offered a plan to the total number of employees in surveyed jobs. Among lower wage full-time workers, 78 percent have access to medical plan coverage, while among higher wage full-time workers, 91 percent have access to such coverage. The participation rate is the ratio of employees in surveyed jobs who participate in plans to the total number of employees in surveyed jobs. At 52 percent, only slightly more than half of all full-time lower wage workers participate in an employer-provided medical plan. This compares to 74 percent of all full-time higher wage workers who participate in a plan. The take-up rate is the ratio of employees in surveyed jobs who participate in plans to the number of employees in surveyed jobs who are offered the plan. Among those workers who have access to a plan, roughly 67 percent of lower wage full-time workers choose to enroll in a medical plan. On the other hand, about 81 percent of higher wage full-time workers with access to a medical plan choose to enroll.

The disparity in take-up rates may be partly due to the fact that many lower wage workers opt out of plans offered because the employee's required contribution to the plan premium is considered too burdensome on the individual's or the family's budget, the survey says. Another possible source of this disparity may be lower wage workers' access to government-provided health care for the working poor through Medicaid or similar programs. Workers in both wage levels may also opt out of their plans because they are covered by plans provided through other family members' employers.

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