More U.S. Residents Reduce Savings, Retirement Contributions To Cover Health Care Costs, Survey Finds
As health care costs continue to rise, more U.S. residents are reducing their savings and retirement contributions to pay for care, according to an annual health confidence survey released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the AP/Boston Globe reports. For the survey, EBRI hired Mathew Greenwald & Associates to interview 1,400 people by phone in late June and early July (AP/Boston Globe, 10/29).
The survey found that about 25% of respondents have reduced retirement savings contributions to cover health care costs, and 48% have reduced other savings. About 18% said they have a hard time paying for necessities, such as food and housing, because of medical bills, and 30% said health care costs have made it difficult to pay other bills (Angle, CQ Today, 10/28). Families with incomes of $35,000 or less were especially likely to report having difficulty paying other bills (AP/Boston Globe, 10/29).
Last year, health premiums increased an average of 13.9% for employers -- the largest increase since 1990 -- and many employers passed some of the cost increases onto their workers. Nearly 67% of respondents said their health care premium contributions had increased within the past year. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they had to contribute more for prescription drugs, and 49% said they had to pay more for doctor visits.
EBRI CEO Dallas Salisbury said, "Americans are coping with the rising cost of health care in a variety of ways, but it is clear that rising health costs are causing financial pain among many and are leading to a reduction in savings in general and retirement savings in particular" (CQ Today, 10/28).
The survey also found that while nearly 40% of respondents rated the health care system as "good to excellent," 30% rated it as "poor," the AP/Boston Globe reports. The percentage of respondents who say the U.S. health care system is "poor" has been steadily growing in recent years, according to the report. "One reason for the declining rating of the health care system is that Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with health care costs," the study states (AP/Boston Globe, 10/29).
The survey also found that confidence in Medicare might be declining. Of respondents, 18% were "very" or "extremely" confident that they would be able to receive the care they need from Medicare when they become eligible for the program, and 20% were "not at all confident" -- up from 16% in 1998 (CQ Today, 10/28).
The survey is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.