Poll: Health Coverage Getting Worse

August 2, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Health insurance benefits have declined over the last few years as compared with salary or retirement income, according to a new survey.

A Wall Street Journal article said that a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive survey found that more than four in 10 (43%) of US adults reported that their health insurance coverage has gotten worse in the last 24 to 36 months. Some 18% said their retirement benefits have deteriorated (48% said their retirement benefits stayed the same) while 14% said their salary income has dropped during that time period.

Some 59% reported that a pay hike is more important than health coverage – down from 66% in 2003. More than a third said maintaining or improving health insurance was more important for them.

If they get hit with higher health coverage outlays, respondents reported that they generally would be more likely to scrimp somewhere else in their budget rather than using fewer health services or aggressively shopping for less expensive providers.

Higher income Americans were more likely to look for ways to set aside money for future health coverage – either in a tax-advantaged health account or in their personal savings.

“The broader implication is that people in middle- and lower-income brackets are more likely to forgo care when out-of-pocket costs go up,” Katherine Binns, senior vice president at Harris Interactive, told the Journal. She says this is especially troubling when research shows lower income people are also more likely to suffer from chronic conditions requiring health care.

Harris Interactive conducted this online survey in the US July 22-26, 2005 among a national cross section of 2,299 adults, of whom 1,030 have employer-provided health insurance.