Poll: Health Care Remains Burdensome for Families

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Amid discussions of “Medicare for All,” a new Monmouth University Poll shows that nearly half of Americans say their health care costs have continued to rise over the past two years. One-fifth of the poll’s respondents say they’ve been forced to choose between paying for health insurance or medical care and other household expenses. The poll also found that half of the country considers health insurance a major factor when choosing a new job.

In business, this trend has been noticed – and sometimes heeded. “In the past, I just glossed over the health insurance plan during interviews,” Ha Nguyen, corporate human resources manager at J&E Manufacturing Co., told Workforce, a website for HR professionals. “Now, it’s one of the first things I mention.”

The Monmouth findings mirror other surveys about the challenges of paying for medical care. An in-depth poll last month by RealClear Opinion Research found that 44% of Americans reported feeling “financially burdened” by medical bills in recent years.

The Monmouth survey asked participants if their health care costs had gone up, gone down, or stayed about the same over the past two years. Forty-six percent said they had gone up. Twenty-one percent said they had gone up a lot. Among this cohort, there was little variation by political party, suggesting that costly medical troubles are a nonpartisan affliction.  

In regard to health insurance premiums, however, there was signification variation. Asked how difficult it was to cover those costs, 21% of Monmouth respondents said paying premiums was “very easy,” while 22% said it was “somewhat difficult,” and 18% said it was “very difficult.” Of the 18% in the last category, 11% identified as Republicans, while nearly twice as many identified as Democrats, and 19% identified as independents. These findings suggest that rank-and-file Democrats feel most burdened by insurance premiums.

While one-fifth of survey participants said they have experienced a time in the past two years when they had to choose between paying for health insurance or medical care and paying for essentials like rent or mortgage, a mere 9% of that group identified as Republicans; 29% identified as Democrats. As has been noted by the many 2020 Democratic candidates, the millennial and Gen Z generations seem to be under more economic pressure than previous generations. From the 20% of people who responded “yes” to this same question, 30% were between the ages 18-34, 20% were ages 35-54, and only 13% were 55 or older.

More than one-quarter of respondents said they or someone in their household had not gone for needed health care because they could not afford it. Again, there’s a stark contrast between Republicans and Democrats on this question: 15% of those who said they had to prioritize health care visits with other needs identified as Republicans, while 35% identified as Democrats, and 28% as independents. Of the 22% of respondents who said “yes” to this question, the millennial and Gen Z generations made up 61%.

In relation to job mobility, the Monmouth poll also asked if participants were looking for another job or thinking about starting a business, and how much of a factor access to health insurance would be in their decision. While 26% said health insurance would not be a factor, more than one-fifth said it would be a minor factor, and 49% said it would be a major factor.

The poll also asked respondents if they had ever thought about looking for or taking another job or thought about starting a business but did not pursue those options in order to maintain their current health insurance coverage. While one-fifth of the total respondents said this had happened, only 15% of that group identified as Republicans, but 30% identified as Democrats.

Although most American families are burdened by health care costs, the scales seem tipped more favorably for Republicans than Democrats. With the first Democratic primary debate just three weeks away, the top-tier candidates are already emphasizing their policies for reforming the national health care system.

As of right now, Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand all support fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan. Among Democrats, this is no longer even controversial. According to the RealClear Opinion Research survey, two-thirds of Americans are positively disposed toward Medicare for All, including 82% of Democrats.

“The function of our health care system will be quality care for all, free choice of doctor and hospital, and paying for that in a public way,” Sanders said last month during a town hall in New Hampshire. “And we save very substantial sums of money because we're not going to be paying people to hound you for the back bills for the hospital. We're going to be putting that money into the delivery of health care.”

The Monmouth University Poll of 802 adults in the United States, conducted May 16-20, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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