Princeton, N.J. (CBS DC) — The availability of employer-sponsored health benefits and coverage has declined nearly 10 percent over the past decade, leaving 12 million fewer people with coverage from 2000.

As of 2011, the share of Americans receiving health benefits through work fell to 60 percent, or 159 million people, continuing a decade-long trend that has prompted an increase in the overall number of Americans living without health insurance.

The health insurance data was published in a study released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and highlights the ongoing national debate on health care following the passage of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010. The legislation is expected to boost coverage by 27 million people in ten years.

However, the law penalizes businesses that don’t offer affordable insurance coverage, even as such employer-sponsored insurance offerings continue to shrink.

“Everyone’s costs have increased dramatically,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Princeton, New Jersey-based foundation, said in a statement, according to Bloomberg News. “Higher costs naturally translate into fewer employers offering insurance coverage, and fewer employees accepting it, even when it is offered.”

The “Obamacare” requirement and the state health insurance exchanges will start Jan. 1. Some employers have said they may drop health insurance because it would be cheaper to pay a $2,000 fine and have employees buy insurance through the exchanges instead of paying an average of $15,000 to buy that employee health insurance.

“This documents that in virtually every state across the country, there has been a steady decline in employers that provide coverage over the past 10 years,” Andrew Hyman, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s health care coverage team, told USA Today. “It would be a real stretch to say this was caused by anticipation of the Affordable Care Act,” President Obama’s 2010 health care law.

The new study found that employer-sponsored coverage fell from 69 percent to 60 percent between 1999 and 2010. The total amount each employee paid each year for insurance doubled in that period from $435 to $1,056 for an individual and from $1,526 to $3,842 for families.


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