HEALTH INSURANCE: Public Supports Employer-Based Coverage
Despite legislators' increasing support of tax credits as a means to expand health coverage, a Commonwealth Fund survey reveals that a vast majority of Americans favor employer-based insurance. Of the 5,002 total respondents -- adults aged 18-64 -- 49% preferred employer plans to all other alternatives. Eighteen percent of survey participants indicated that the government should provide direct coverage. Moreover, 35% of the uninsured respondents favored employer-based coverage. Commonwealth President Karen Davis said she was "surprised" by this "dominant support" for employer-based insurance, especially considering that 44 million remain uninsured under this system. She added, "I think the reason [for the support] is the fear of being on their own." A large majority also indicated support for coverage assistance for low-income workers: 85% of respondents supported assisting low-income workers and their families pay for employer-sponsored health plans; 79% favored creating new government programs and 67% wished to expand current federal programs (Rovner, CongressDaily, 1/12).
Three out of four people with employer-sponsored coverage say their employer "does a good job of selecting quality health plans." Despite this vote of confidence, many insured workers are concerned with the continuing rise in premiums. The study found that an estimated 30% of those earning less than $20,000 say they have difficulty paying premium shares. Cathy Schoen, vice president for research and evaluation at The Commonwealth Fund, said this news is "disturbing," noting, "With premium costs expected to continue to rise, these workers are likely to be at high risk of dropping coverage." Data also shows workers switch plans often and coverage is often "inadequate to meet family health care needs and afford financial protection." Twenty-five percent of those interviewed reported not receiving necessary care due to costs or the inability to pay medical bills. Dr. James Mongan, chair of Commonwealth's Task Force on the Future of Health Insurance for Working Americans, said that since its development in the 1950s, employer-based coverage "has developed cracks through which too many working people are falling." Davis concurred, saying the system "appears to be working well for millions of American workers, yet far too many remain shut out ... We need to develop strategies to make certain that this system works for all working families" ( Commonwealth Fund release, 1/12).