Health Insurance Costs Lead Workers To Opt Out Of Health Coverage

A primary factor driving employees towards being uninsured might not be that they aren't being offered health benefits by their company, but that the cost of those benefits has grown too expensive, according to a new report by the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

"The general trend in the percentage of uninsured workers reporting cost as a reason for not having coverage has been upward since 2008," wrote Paul Fronstin, the author of the report.

Back in mid-2008, the percentage of uninsured workers who cited cost as a reason for opting out of health coverage was at around 77 percent. As the recession progressed, that number jumped to 86 percent but it has continued to rise: as of June of 2011, 90 percent of uninsured people said cost was a reason they didn't have coverage.

Fronstin explained to that these higher costs are the result of companies shifting towards making their employees pay a larger portion of their coverage; that could be happening in the form of higher deductibles and co-payments.

“Employers have changed their focus to managing cost by changing the quality of the coverage that’s being provided,” Fronstin told “It’s the value of the plan that’s changed more than the premium."

What's more, when NPR collaborated on a survey with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health recently, they found that despite higher costs, people who had been sick weren't happy with the coverage they'd received. Half of those who had been sick reported that quality of care was a very serious problem.

Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NPR that in recent years, health insurance has become "skimpier and skimpier and less and less comprehensive."

"This affects not only how people seek health care -- they're more reluctant to get it if they can put it off. But it also affects family budgets in a very real way, especially as we're still coming out of recession and families are still crunched by a weak economy," he said.