U.S. workers are less confident that employers will continue offering health insurance and are more concerned about items not covered by employers, according to a new survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C.
The report also indicates that healthcare is shaping into a major issue for the upcoming presidential campaign--with respondents ranking it as the No. 2 national issue, behind the economy--and that interest in government-sponsored health insurance has grown significantly.
The EBRI's 2003 Health Confidence Survey came out Tuesday, the same day that the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the percentage of Americans covered through their employers fell from 62.6% in 2001 to 61.3% in 2002. Overall, the Census Bureau says the uninsured rate rose from 14.6% of Americans in 2001 to 15.2% in 2002, a net increase of 2.4 million people.
Specifics of the EBRI survey include:
- Americans with employer-based coverage who said they are extremely or very confident that their employer will continue to offer coverage declined from 68% in 2000 to 61% in 2003.
- Those dissatisfied with health costs not covered by insurance rose to 48% in 2003 from 37% in 1998.
- One in five Americans say healthcare is the most critical issue facing the nation today, making it the No. 2 concern after the economy (27%) and just ahead of terrorism and national security (17%).
- Those who expressed a preference for a government-operated system jumped from 17% to 31% in the past year alone, although ERBI reports that 55% still support employer-based coverage.
Other recent polls also underscore Americans' interest in healthcare costs as a top issue.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in July found that healthcare costs rank at the top of Americans' economic concerns, cited by 24% of respondents, compared with 16% who cited high taxes as their top concern.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released last week found that 43% of Americans consider a candidate's position on healthcare "extremely important," just below terrorism and the economy (each cited by 49%).
For more on the EBRI survey, go to www.ebri.org/hcs.