Health Cost Hikes Drive Savings Cutbacks

September 16, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Some 31% of those in a new survey who were hit with health coverage cost hikes have cut their retirement savings, and 55% decreased their overall savings as a result.

A summary report about the 2010 Health Confidence Survey (HCS) from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) indicates that 29% say they have used up all or most of their savings, 24% have increased their credit card debt, and 21% report borrowing money. Twenty-eight percent also indicate they have had difficulty paying for basic necessities, like food, heat, and housing, while 37% say they had difficulty paying other bills, according to the poll report authored by Ruth Helman, Mathew Greenwald & Associates, and Paul Fronstin of EBRI.

The survey also found confidence in the future availability of employment-based health benefits fell. In 2010, 52% of individuals with employment-based coverage reported that they are extremely or very confident that their (or their spouse’s) employer or union would continue to offer health insurance, down from 59% a year earlier. “The decline may be due to passage of health reform, the continuing weak economy, or both,” the researchers commented.

In looking at the overall health care system, a majority of those responding rate the system as poor (27%) or fair (31%), despite the recently passed sweeping health care reform bill. But more than half report being extremely or very confident that they are able to get the treatments they need.

Further, according to the poll, 59% of respondents said they are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of the medical care they have received in the past two years – the highest since the HCS was started in 1998. In contrast, just 22% are extremely or very satisfied with the cost of their health insurance, and only 19% are satisfied with the cost of health care services not covered by insurance. Fifty-eight percent of those with health insurance coverage are extremely or very satisfied with their current plan, and 30% are somewhat satisfied.

Other findings include:

  • Three-quarters report that they always or often have their doctor or medical professional explain to them why a test was needed, and two-thirds say they ask their doctor about the risks of treatment or side effects of medications. Slightly more than one-half indicate they ask about the success rate of the treatment option.
  • Nearly one-half tried to find information on the advantages and disadvantages of different treatment options, where one in three tried to find information about a doctor’s training and the costs of different treatments.
  • When it comes to the health reform bill, most Americans do not know when the legislation takes full effect. One quarter think it takes full effect before 2014, and 21% think it takes full effect in 2014.
  • Among individuals who plan to vote in November, 71% report that health reform will affect how they vote, while 26% report that it will not affect how they vote.

The survey was conducted within the United States between May 12 and June 13, 2010, through telephone interviews with 1,000 individuals age 21 and older.

The research summary report is at http://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/EBRI_Notes_09-Sept10.HCS_RSPM.pdf.

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