NU Online News Service, April 29, 2003, 4:53 p.m. EDT – Two survey reports released today suggest that U.S. consumers are worried about skyrocketing health care costs but are unwilling to do much to help control them.

Researchers hired by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., polled a sample of the general U.S. adult population, and researchers hired by Towers Perrin, New York, polled employees.

When the researchers who conducted the Kaiser survey asked consumers about a variety of economic risks, they found that the risk of rising health care and health insurance costs was the top economic worry: 36% of the respondents were “very worried” about health care and health insurance cost inflation.

Thirty-five percent were very worried about overall inflation, but the next most dreaded risk, the risk of not having enough cash to make rent or mortgage payments, ranked as a top worry for only 17% of the respondents.

But the Kaiser survey results also show that U.S. consumers continue to be suspicious of efforts to control health care costs. When the researchers asked about health concerns, they found that 27% of respondents were very worried that the quality of health care they receive would get worse, and 34% were very worried that their health plans might be more concerned about saving money for the plan than about what was best for the patients.

Some employers have been trying to control costs by shifting to “consumer-driven” plan designs that give consumers incentives to consider cost when seeking care.

But only 46% of the employees who participated in the Towers Perrin survey believe that it is fair for employers to ask employees to pay more out of pocket.

Workers under age 35 were even less likely to support the concept of sharing cost increases than other employees: only 28% of the younger workers polled thought it was fair for employers to ask them to absorb some of the annual increases in health care costs.