Employer-based health coverage hits new low

The number of people getting healthcare through an employer is at its lowest point since President Obama took office, according to new Gallup data.

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Republicans consistently argue that President Obama's healthcare law will erode employer-based coverage. And the latest Gallup figures show that while the economy has steadily added jobs over the past year, that trend hasn't come with rising levels of employer-based healthcare.

The economy added roughly 1.8 million jobs last year, but the percentage of people getting healthcare benefits through their employer held steady at 44.5 percent — nearly 5 percentage points lower than 2008 levels, and 0.1 percentage points lower than 2011.

"Fewer Americans continue to have employer-based insurance than did so in 2008," Gallup said. "This appears to be due to two factors: higher unemployment and fewer workers getting insurance through an employer, either because that employer no longer offers it or because the cost is prohibitive for the employee."

The number of uninsured people fell slightly last year, while the number of people on a government-run healthcare plan rose slightly, according to Gallup's data.

Republicans have charged that President Obama's healthcare law will lead to an erosion in employer-based insurance. They say new benefit mandates and restrictions on bare-bones policies will leave employers with fewer affordable options, prompting them to quit offering coverage altogether.

But more meager coverage — the kind most heavily regulated by the Affordable Care Act — is usually offered in industries that are heavy on part-time work, and the latest Gallup data shows that part-time workers are gaining coverage.

The number of part-time workers who got coverage through their employer spiked in 2012 — up to 32.5 percent, from 28.6 percent the year before. The number of full-time workers with employer-based coverage fell by 0.6 percentage points over the past year.