Workers continue to give low marks to overall health care system, but rate their own health plans favorably

When asked to rate the U.S. health care system, many workers rate it as poor (25 percent) or fair (30 percent), according to recent research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Only a small minority rate it as excellent (4 percent) or very good (13 percent). In contrast to the ratings for the health care system overall, the 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS) found that workers’ ratings of their own health plans continue to be generally favorable. One-half of those with health insurance coverage are extremely or very satisfied. Only 9 percent say they are not satisfied with their current plan.

The survey found that significantly fewer workers say they experienced health care cost increases in 2015 compared with previous years. One-half of workers report having experienced an increase in health care costs in the past year—down from 59 percent in 2014 and a historical low for the survey, EBRI noted. Conversely, those who reported that they did not experience a change in health care costs increased from 36 percent to 47 percent between 2014 and 2015.

High health care costs cause many workers to encounter financial difficulties or change their use of health care. The survey found the following:

  • Workers experiencing cost increases continue to report that they are changing the way they use the health care system: 69 percent said these increased costs lead them to try to take better care of themselves, and 52 percent indicate they choose generic drugs more often.
  • One-half also say they go to the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms (49 percent) and 43 percent delay going to the doctor.
  • Among those experiencing cost increases in their plans in the past year, 23 percent state they have decreased their contributions to retirement plans, and 43 percent have decreased their contributions to other savings as a result.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) also report they have had difficulty paying for basic necessities such as food, heat, and housing, while 34 percent say they have had difficulty paying other bills.
  • About one-quarter (23 percent) say they have used up all or most of their savings, 26 percent have increased their credit card debt, 13 percent report that they have borrowed money, 27 percent have delayed retirement, 15 percent have dropped other insurance benefits, 10 percent have taken a loan or withdrawal from a retirement account, and 5 percent have purchased additional insurance to help with expenses.

SOURCE: EBRI press release, September 16, 2015.

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