Fewer workers with private health insurance are reporting rising health care costs in 2015 than in previous years, according to a September report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Based on 1,500 responses to the EBRI/Greenwald & Associates 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey, the report indicates that 50 percent of privately insured workers experienced an increase in health care costs in 2015, down from 59 percent in 2014. Additionally, the number of workers who stated that they saw no cost increase went up from 36 percent to 47 percent between 2014 and 2015.
The Effect of Rising Health Care Costs on Workers’ Lives
This apparent slowdown in health care costs for insured U.S. workers is encouraging. Nevertheless, rising health insurance premiums and increased cost sharing continue to impact American families in various ways. These include:
Changes in health care utilization
Although 70 percent of survey respondents said that rising costs encouraged them to take better care of themselves, many workers also reported delaying necessary health care. About 50 percent reported going to a doctor only for serious symptoms, and 43 percent said they postpone appointments due to financial concerns. About half reported that they consistently request generic equivalents of brand name drugs.
Among survey respondents who reported an increase in health care costs, many stated that they are under significant financial stress. For instance:
- One quarter of those responding reported difficulty paying for necessary expenses, such as heat, food and housing.
- Over 30 percent said that they have trouble paying other bills.
- Nearly 25 percent have little or no savings, and 43 percent of those who do have a savings account have decreased the amount they contribute to savings due to rising health care costs.
- Of those with retirement accounts, 23 percent have decreased their contributions over the past year.
- Over 25 percent have delayed retirement due to financial concerns.
Increasing Personal Debt
Many workers who have seen an increase in their health insurance premiums or health care costs have incurred additional debt. For example:
- About one-quarter of respondents increased their credit-card debt over the past year.
- Nearly 15 percent had to borrow money from private sources.
- Fifteen percent dropped other insurance coverage to pay for health care.
- Ten percent took a loan against or withdrew money from a retirement account.
Workers Attitudes Towards U.S. Health Care
The EBRI Workplace Benefits Survey also asked respondents to rate the U.S. health care system overall. The results reflect American workers’ growing dissatisfaction with high health care costs along with a high level of confidence that they can get the care they need. For example:
- Over one-half of respondents (55 percent) described the U.S. health care system as poor (25 percent) or fair (30 percent.)
- Three in 10 respondents rated the system as good.
- Less than 20 percent rated it as very good (13 percent) or excellent (4 percent).
At the same time, those responding to the survey expressed a high level of confidence in the quality and availability of health care in the United States.
- Nearly half of the respondents stated that they are extremely or very confident that they can obtain necessary treatment
- Thirty-seven percent said they are somewhat confident that they can get the treatment they need.
- Less than 20 percent said they are not too confident (11 percent) or not at all confident (6 percent) in their ability to obtain needed health care
Additionally, 42 percent of workers said that they were extremely or very confident that they have enough choice in their selection of health care providers. Nearly 40 percent said that they are somewhat confident in the choices available and 22 percent expressed little or no confidence in the availability of health care.
Workers Attitudes Towards Their Health Insurance Plans
Despite dissatisfaction with the health care system overall, American workers appear fairly satisfied with their employment-based health insurance plans. According to the EBRI survey, 50 percent of surveyed workers said that they were very satisfied with their health insurance plans, while 41 percent said that they were somewhat satisfied. Only 9 percent said that they were not too satisfied (7 percent) or not satisfied at all (2 percent.)
If you are an employer, selecting the most appropriate health insurance coverage for your employees is a major concern, especially in this era of increased cost-sharing and rising premiums. Learn how to provide the best possible coverage at the lowest possible cost by contacting one of our experienced health and business insurance experts today. Call us at 516-292-3780 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., or request a free consultation online now.