New study says only half of small-business employees get health benefits

A new study from the Commonwealth Fund, an independent health care policy foundation, confirms an alarming, decade-long decline in the number of employees working in small businesses who receive health insurance from their employers.

The report found that in 2010 only 49 percent of workers in small businesses with fewer than 50 employees were offered and eligible for health insurance through their employer.  That number was down from 58 percent in 2003.

Their counterparts in larger companies fared much better, with 90 percent of those working in firms with 100 or more employees being offered and eligible for coverage in both 2003 and 2010.

Low-wage employees were the least likely to be offered and eligible for health benefits: just one-third of small-business workers making less than $15 an hour were eligible to enroll in their company’s health plan.

It is these employees who work for small businesses and in lower-wage jobs that will be most helped by the Affordable Care Act.  Small businesses are now able to apply for tax credits to buy group plans for their employees and will have more options in the state health insurance exchange.  Individuals will be able to access tax credits to help pay for premiums when they purchase individual plans in the exchange.

In addition, some of these lower-income workers might be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the state takes the opportunity to create the new Medicaid program under the ACA.

Before the ACA, many of these employees who were not able to get insurance through their workplace just skipped seeking medical care because they couldn’t afford it.  This study is more evidence that building a consumer-friendly exchange and implementing the new Medicaid program is critical to hard-working Nebraskans that work for our state’s small businesses.

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