Small businesses struggle to offer health coverage

A new study finds that 49 percent of U.S. workers in small businesses were offered health insurance in 2010, down from 58 percent in 2003.

Firms with 100 or more employees were far more likely to provide health benefits, at 90 percent in both 2003 and 2010, according to the report from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that does health care research.

Low-wage workers in small businesses were the least likely to be offered coverage: One-third of workers making less than $15 an hour in small firms were able to enroll in their employer’s health plan.

Other findings included that 45 percent of small-business workers reported difficulty paying medical bills in 2010, and 46 percent said they skipped needed medical care because they couldn’t afford it.

The federal health care law seeks to address some of these problems by offering premium tax credits to certain small businesses and, starting in 2014, by granting subsidies to many uninsured workers toward their purchase of health insurance.

— Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times

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