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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Americans like their health plans, not the system

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Workers are pretty happy with their own health plan, but when the story turns to the overall health care system, feelings change.

According to a survey by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates, about half (51 percent) of those with coverage say they are “extremely” or “very satisfied.” Another 37 percent said they’re “somewhat satisfied” with their health plan, while 10 percent said they aren’t too (8 percent) or not at all (2 percent) satisfied.

But satisfaction among workers drops for the health care system as a whole.

Just 12 percent describe America’s health care system as “very good,” while 2 percent say it’s “excellent.”  The majority of workers describe it as poor (21 percent) or fair (34 percent), while 31 percent consider it “good.”

The primary reason for dissatisfaction with the health care system? Cost.

Despite reports that health care spending is slowing down, health costs remain incredibly high. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation confirmed long-held suspicions that the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage continues to rise at a faster rate than wages and inflation. Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage climbed nearly 4 percent this year to top $16,000 for the first time, Kaiser found. The cost of single coverage rose almost 5 percent. Worker wages, meanwhile, climbed nearly 2 percent on average.

In fact, EBRI’s research found that about six in 10 workers with coverage report having experienced an increase in health care costs over the past year.

“Dissatisfaction with the health care system appears to be focused primarily on cost,” EBRI researcher Paul Fronstin, co-author of the study, wrote.

And the rising cost is causing financial difficulties for many workers. Among those experiencing cost increases in their plans in the past year, 32 percent said they’ve cut retirement plan contributions and more than half (57 percent) have dropped contributions to other savings vehicles.

Two in 10 (22 percent) also reported they have had difficulty paying for basic necessities such as food, heat, and housing, while 38 percent say they’ve had difficulty paying other bills. More than one-quarter (27 percent) say they’ve used up all or most of their savings, 33 percent have rung up more credit card debt, and 16 percent report they’ve borrowed money.

Fronstin noted the percentage of workers rating the health care system as poor doubled between 1998 and 2006, rising from 14 percent to 32 percent. But he noted the percentage has fallen slightly more recently.

Dissatisfaction with the health care system also stems from concerns about treatment availability.

While 46 percent of workers indicate they’re extremely or very confident about their ability to get the treatments they need today, only 28 percent are confident about their ability to get needed treatments during the next 10 years, and just 19 percent are confident about this once they’re eligible for Medicare.

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