An annual Employee Benefits Research Institute report tracks workers attitudes toward health care and their health coverage. (EBRI Article) The survey was conducted among 1500 working age employees in 2017. Asked to identify the single most critical issue for the country, 31% of these respondents listed health care, followed by terrorism at 21%. As will be seen, this largely reflects concerns about cost. In regard to our overall health system, 25% describe it as poor and 30% as fair; while 28% consider it good, 13% as very good and 5% as excellent. There has been a general trend over the last two decades for continual declines in the rating of the health system. 15% of workers are extremely confident they can get the treatments they need, 30% very confident, 38% somewhat confident and 12% not too confident. There is also a trend on this question of a general decline in confidence. Ratings on ability to choose who provides medical care, on the other hand, have been pretty stable. Only 30% of employees say they are very or extremely confident that they can afford health care without financial hardship. Workers confidence declines significantly when asked to project 10 years into the future or until they are Medicare eligible, indicating considerable anxiety about the future of health care.
Consistent with other surveys, workers tend to show more satisfaction with their own current health plans. Ratings here have been remarkably stable for 20 years, with 13% extremely satisfied, 37% very satisfied, 39% somewhat satisfied and only 3% not satisfied at all. 17% of workers say they would give up wages for more health benefits and 20% say they would give up health benefits for higher wages. 60% of employees say that health benefits are very important in deciding whether to take or stay at a job. Workers remain very confident that their employer will continue to offer health benefits. Cost is the major source of dissatisfaction, with only 22% saying they are very or extremely satisfied with the cost of their health plan, while 49% are very or extremely satisfied with quality of care. About half of workers said they had to pay more for health care in 2017. Among these employees, 68% say they respond by trying to improve their health, 63% say they use generic drugs more, 63% say they limit doctor visits to serious needs, 56% talk more to physicians about treatment options and costs and 55% delay going to a doctor. When stressed by health care costs, employees say they respond by decreasing retirement savings, limiting other savings, have difficulty paying for basic necessities, increase credit card debt and have difficulty paying other bills.