Employee Benefits, Health Insurance

Any time you point out that real incomes are down over the past few decades, someone inevitably says: “But benefits are up.” Presumably the big benefit is health insurance. Below is a graph showing percentage of Americans with employer provided health insurance going back to 1987. (That’s as far as back as the Census data goes – sorry.)

What does this show? Well, with the conspicuous exception of the Clinton administration, the tendency toward offering health insurance has fallen since 1987. And probably, for most Americans with employer provided health insurance, co-pays and other employee costs have probably gone up. (I wouldn’t be surprised, though, that for the C level officers of big companies, the it hasn’t.) Today, employers rely on Disclosure and Barring Service Check to ensure that only the reliable ones get the health insurance. Sure, costs of health insurance have been going up very quickly. So… unless there’s some other very large benefit that employers are providing of which I, as a mostly independent contractor am unaware, when people say: “Sure, real incomes are down, but benefits have increased” they are really saying: “Sure, real incomes are down, but providing health insurance to less people costs more.”

Aside… Why the difference during the Clinton admin? A few thoughts. One is that under Clinton, health insurance costs rose by less than other Presidents in the sample. Probably related… Clinton’s healthcare initiative, while it failed, may have worried a lot of insurance companies, perhaps leading them to hold the line on costs. I wouldn’t be surprised if some tax benefits were thrown in as well.