Will employers continue to offer health benefits to workers like these? (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

U.S. consumers believe group health coverage will continue to exist but be harder for them to afford.

Paul Fronstin, a researcher at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), Washington, has included data on consumers’ views about employer-based health coverage in a summary of results from a telephone survey of 1,001 U.S. adults ages 21 and older that was conducted in May and June.

About 57% of the survey participants with employment-based coverage said they were very or extremely confident that their employers or unions would continue to offer health benefits, and only 18% said they were not too confident or not at all confident that their provider of health benefits would drop health benefits altogether.

But Frontstin found that low-income survey participants — the kinds of people who might be eligible for subsidies to buy individual coverage through the new health insurance distribution exchanges that are supposed to be created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) — were less confident about continued access to group health benefits than higher-paid participants were.

Only 45% of the participants with annual household incomes under $35,000 said they were confident about still being able to get coverage through their employers; about 67% of the participants with annual household incomes over $75,000 think they’ll still have access to group health coverage.

But only 20% of the survey participants said they were very or extremely confident that they could continue to afford group health coverage, and 48% said they were too confident or not at all confident.

“Statistically significant differences were found by gender and age but not by education, income, marital status, or race,” Fronstin writes. “When it comes to health status, persons in excellent, very good, and good health or whose health improved or stayed the same were more likely than those in fair or poor health or whose health had declined to be extremely or very confident that they could afford to purchase health coverage.”