Performance Improvement 2007. What Can We Learn from Employer-Provided Health Insurance Data?



This study assessed the value of using data from the Department of Labor's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration for determining whether employees received employer-provided health care. The study used administrative records from benefit plans filed annually by firms (on IRS Form 5500, that provides information on employee benefit plans, including data on different types of health insurance plans) when merged with individual and employer data from the Census Bureau's Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics data program. The study explored what proportion of the health benefit plans on file in the Form 5500 data can accurately be linked to specific employers. Further, the study examined how the proportion of firms offering health plans observed in these data coincides with what was observed in other data sources. The study looked at individual workers and whether their employment by firms that had and had not filed health plans was consistent with their self-reporting of access to health benefits as reported in the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Finally, the study examined the types of questions that these data could inform, and identified some descriptive findings on changes in employer health benefits that illustrate what the first steps of such a research agenda might look like.

The study found that while the data are not well-suited to examine the proportion of workers receiving employer-sponsored health care or the proportion of firms offering health care, they could contribute significantly to our understanding of the types of firms that offer health plans, as well as how offers and cost-sharing change over time within specific firms. Several types of research questions could be pursued with the data systems identified. How much of the increases in employer health care costs are passed along to employees? How do such increases affect employee participation in employer-offered health insurance plans? How does turbulence in an economic sector affect the kinds of benefits being offered by businesses in that sector? Do reports by workers accurately reflect changes in employer offerings?

Report Title: Employer Provided Health Insurance: What can be Learned from the 5500 Data?
Agency Sponsor: ASPE, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Hauan, Susan, 202-690-8698
Performer: U.S. Census Bureau; Washington, DC
PIC ID: 8289

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"PerformanceImprovement2007.pdf" (pdf, 717.63Kb)

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