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Workers Perceptions of the Health System

By October 24, 2014Commentary

Most Americans are still-covered by employer-sponsored health plans.  What do these workers think about the health system and their own health plans?  The Employee Benefit Research Institute along with Greenwald & Associates, conducted a survey to find out.   (EBRI Survey)   When asked to identify the most critical issue facing the country today, health care came in second with 19% of respondents naming it, compared to the eoncomy at 37%, the federal deficit at 12% and education at 11%.  Asked to rate our health system, 29% said it is poor, 32% said fair, for a combined 61% compared to 55% who gave that rating in 2013.  Guess that first year of health reform implementation didn’t make things much better.  Confidence in ability to get needed treatments has remained steady from 2013 to 2014, with about 36% saying they are extremely or very confident, but 48% held this view in 2009.  Perceptions of adequacy of provider choice are also fairly stable, with about 38% saying they are extremely or very confident of this in each year, but there has been a significant drop from the 47% who expressed this level of confidence in 2009.  And perception of affordability has dropped from 36% who were extremely or very confident they could afford health care without a financial hardship in 2009 to only 24% in 2014.  And these confidence levels drop greatly when workers are asked about the next ten years, indicating that people expect the system to get worse.  Gee, that’s not what we were promised by reform advocates.

Most employees, 64% are extremely or very confident that their company will continue to offer health insurance, and that level hasn’t changed much in recent years.  Combined satisfaction with the employee’s own health plan has remained stable at around a 50% level for extremely and very satisfied, but the extremely satisfied group has dropped from 22% in 2010 to 11% in 2014 while the very satisfied cohort has risen from 35% to 39%.  Only 11% express real dissatisfaction with their plan in 2014.  But the dissatisfaction with the health system is focussed around costs, with over 60% being unsatisfied to some degree with the cost of health care, a number that is steadily rising.  Surprisingly, only 60% of respondents said they had an increase of health costs in the last year, but among these, 73% say they take better care of themselves in response, 61% use more generic drugs, 55% only go to the doctor for serious symptoms and 49% delay going to the physician.  These increased costs are causing many to defer savings and 21% said they have difficulty paying for necessities due to health care costs.  Maybe it wouldn’t be correct to blame it all on reform, but proponents raised expectations that costs would be lower, and in fact they have been driven higher.

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