Self‐employed workers are 10% of the US labor force, with growth projected over the next decade. Whether existing policy mechanisms are sufficient to ensure health insurance coverage for self‐employed workers, who do not have access to employer‐sponsored coverage, is unclear.
To determine whether self‐employment is associated with lack of health insurance coverage.
Secondary analysis of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data collected 2014‐2017.
Participants were working age (18‐64 years), employed, civilian noninstitutionalized US adults with two years of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) participation in 2014‐2017. We compared those who were employees vs those who were self‐employed. Key outcomes were self‐report of health insurance coverage, and of delaying needed medical care.
Longitudinal design among individuals who were employees during study year 1, comparing health insurance coverage among those who did vs did not transition to self‐employment in year 2.
16 335 individuals, representing 121 473 345 working‐age adults, met inclusion criteria; of these, 147, representing 1 097 582 individuals, transitioned to self‐employment. In unadjusted analyses, 25.7% of those who became self‐employed were uninsured in year 2, vs 8.1% of those who remained employees (< .0001). In adjusted models, self‐employment was associated with greater risk of being uninsured (26.1% vs 8.0%, risk difference 18.0%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 9.2% to 26.9%, = .0001). A time‐by‐employment type product term suggests that 10.0 percentage points (95%CI 0.3 to 19.7 percentage points, = .04) of the risk difference may be attributable to the change to self‐employment. Self‐employment was also associated with delaying needed medical care (12.0% vs 3.1%, risk difference: 8.9%, 95% CI 3.1% to 14.6%, = .003).
One in four self‐employed workers lack health insurance coverage. Given the rise in self‐employment, it is imperative to identify ways to improve health care insurance access for self‐employed working‐age US adults.