There's been a lot of talk – and press coverage– over the last couple of years about employer-based healthbenefits. Where is it going? How much more will it cost? And willreform kill it altogether? From McKinsey to Willis to our very ownsurveys, the fate of employer-sponsored health care is a hotlydebated one these days.

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And it's within this climate the Employee Benefit ResearchInstitute drops its latest take on it. And the outlook is decidedlygrim, as least based on these numbers.

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For starters and maybe not all that surprisingly, the percentageof workers with coverage has been falling pretty steadily over thelast decade. Of course, fewer workers have access to begin with, ahuge contributor to drop in coverage.

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The bottom line, according to EBRI, is that between 1997 and2010, the rate employers offered benefits fell to 67.5 percent fromslightly more than 70 percent while the coverage rate dropped from60.3 percent to 56.5 percent.

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The interesting twist here, though, is that even the rate atwhich employees actually accept coverage when it's offered hasfallen as well, probably a testament to how tight the economyremains on a personal level. From that same time frame, the numberor employees decling coverage – based on cost concerns – jumpedfrom 23.2 percent to 29.1 percent.

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So perhaps more than ever before, brokers face a dual challengewhen selling employee benefits, because getting into the conferenceroom with employees is just half the battle.

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It's also worth noting that despite all sound and furysurrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thesefalling numbers reflect an era that completely predates thatlegislation.

 

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