Survey Respondents: Hands off our Employer Health Coverage

October 24, 2007 ( - Americans with health insurance from their employer say the coverage is more valuable than what it costs their company to provide.

A new study, the 2007 Health Confidence Survey (HCS), also found than four in 10 (42%) would back a reform plan mandating all employers to provide and fund their workers’ health coverage. The study was carried out by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

According to an EBRI news release, almost two in 10 (18%) think employers with 30 or more workers should be included in the mandate, while one in 10 (12%) say those with at least 50 workers should be included.

Three-quarters of those with employer-provided health coverage (76%) said they would prefer $7,500 in employer-based health benefits to an additional $7,500 in taxable income. When those preferring to keep their coverage were asked how much they would need in additional taxable income to willingly give it up, the median response was $12,000, EBRI said.

The announcement said the study found that most Americans with health coverage at work, were confident their employer or union will continue to offer health insurance for its workers. Almost three in 10 (28%) were extremely confident that this will continue to be the case – a decrease from the 35% who were extremely confident in 2004.

At the same time, few Americans who now have employment-based coverage were confident they could afford it on their own, even if their employer gave them the money it currently spends on their insurance to help them pay for it. According to the survey, 16% report they were extremely confident or very confident they could afford to purchase health insurance by themselves.

Although employed Americans were upbeat about wellness programs in general (82%), they were less comfortable with specific programs that employers might offer.

General Survey Findings

Generally, the survey found that more than six in 10 Americans with health insurance coverage (63%) reported an increase in the costs they are responsible for paying under their plan in the past year, the survey found.

Of these, a sizeable and increasing percentage said the increase caused them to try to take better care of themselves (81% in 2007; 71% in 2005) and talk to the doctor more carefully about treatment options and costs (66% in 2007; 57% in 2005).

The survey also found these other changes in the use of the health care system: Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they went to the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms (64% in 2007; 54% in 2005), delayed going to the doctor (50% in 2007; 40% in 2005), and skipped or did not fill their prescribed medications (28% in 2007; 21% in 2005).

“These results show the impact of rising health care costs is widespread and growing,” said Dallas Salisbury, EBRI president, in the announcement. “Previous surveys showed rising health care costs were affecting the household finances of many Americans. This year we learned that costs also are influencing how much individuals use the health care system, even to the point of delaying care when that could be harmful. Thus, it should be no surprise that the overwhelming majority of Americans are not satisfied with the costs of health insurance.”

Those experiencing cost increases also were likely to report that these increases hurt their household finances. For example, they said increased health care costs have resulted in a decrease in contributions to retirement (30%) and other savings (52%) and in difficulty paying for basic necessities (29%) and other bills (36%), the survey found.

The survey was conducted within the United States from May 17 to June 10, 2007, through 20-minute random telephone interviews with 1,000 individuals ages 21 and older.