Only half of America’s smallest businesses now offer health coverage to their workers because many say steady cost hikes have made it too expensive to afford a benefit nearly all large employers still provide.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said Tuesday that 50 percent of companies with three to 49 employees offered coverage this year. That’s down from 59 percent in 2012 and 66 percent more than a decade ago. Some employers have opted instead to give workers money to buy coverage on the individual market, which includes the Affordable Care Act’s public marketplaces.

The nonprofit Kaiser also found in its annual benefits survey that 96 percent of businesses with 100 or more workers offer health benefits.

Employer-sponsored coverage is the most common form of health insurance in the United States.

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