Health Care Costs Negatively Affecting Workers’ Financial Picture

Of the 48% who say their health care costs have increased, more than one-quarter have decreased their retirement plan contributions.

Thirty-one percent of American workers say that health care is the most important issue in the United States, according to an online survey of 1,518 workers that the Employee Benefit Research Institute conducted last June with the help of Greenwald & Associates. This tops the 21% who identified terrorism as the nation’s biggest challenge, the 15% who pointed to the role of the federal government, and the 13% who cited unemployment.

Of the 48% of workers who say that their health care costs have increased, 26% have decreased contributions to their retirement plan, and 43% have decreased their contributions to other savings. More than one-quarter say they have difficulty paying for basic necessities, such as food, heat and housing.

More than one quarter, 27%, have delayed retirement, 19% have dropped other insurance benefits, and 13% have purchased additional insurance to help with expenses.

Among the 48% who say they have experienced an increase in health care costs, 68% say they are trying to take better care of themselves, and 63% are selecting generic drugs more often. Sixty-three percent only go to the doctor for serious conditions or symptoms, and 55% delay going to the doctor

Sixty percent of American workers say that health insurance is extremely important when considering whether to stay in or choose a new job—topping the 42% who say that a retirement savings plan is extremely important when making such a consideration.

Twenty-five percent say that the health care system is poor, and 30% describe it as fair.

Their outlook about the current health care system is mixed, but it declines looking into the future. For example, 45% are extremely or very confident in their ability to get the health care treatments they need today, but that declines to 34% over the next 10 years and just 26% once they are eligible for Medicare.

Thirty percent are confident they can afford health care without financial hardship, but that declines to 26% over the next 10 years and 23% once they qualify for Medicare.

As for the health insurance they are being offered by their employer, Americans are generally quite optimistic. Fifty percent say they are extremely or very satisfied with their health care plan. Asked whether they are confident that their employer will continue to offer health insurance in the future, 63% say yes.

Forty-nine percent are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of medical care they have received in the past two years.

However, Americans are not happy about the cost of health insurance. A mere 22% are extremely or very satisfied with the cost of their health insurance plan. Forty-eight percent say that their health care costs have increased in the last year.

EBRI’s full report on Americans’ views on health care can be downloaded here.