These workers would quit their jobs, but worry about losing health care

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Some workers are sticking with jobs they don’t want because they worry about losing health insurance, a new survey shows.

About one in six U.S. workers (16%) with employer-based health insurance is staying put at a job they’d like to leave due to fear of losing their benefits, according to a new Gallup and West Health study.

Black workers (21%) were more likely than their Hispanic (16%) and white (14%) counterparts to express this fear. People with annual household incomes below $48,000 were also much more likely than their higher-income counterparts to say the same.  

Among all respondents, more than half expressed concern about the cost of health care rising until they could no longer afford it, with Black and Hispanic adults (both 59%) more likely than white adults (50%) to voice this worry. More than half of adults were also concerned about prescription drug costs surpassing their ability to afford them.


Employer plans cover about half the U.S. population.

Majorities of respondents overall supported proposals for the government to play a stronger role in containing healthcare costs, including setting federal limits on drug-price increases (77%), capping prices for hospitals in certain markets where there is limited or no competition (76%), negotiating prices for certain high-cost drugs that lack competitors (74%) and setting limits on out-of-network care prices (65%).

Democrats and Independents were more likely than Republicans to back these measures. The survey, which was conducted March 15 to March 21, included responses from 3,870 U.S. adults.

Employer plans cover about half the U.S. population, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports health-care issues. 

Some 7.7 million workers lost jobs with employer-sponsored health insurance between February and June of 2020, when early pandemic-mitigation measures prompted a massive unemployment surge, the Commonwealth Fund estimated in October. Those workers’ plans covered about 6.9 million dependents, meaning up to 14.6 million people were impacted.

Rising cost of health care

“These estimates of lost jobs with [employer-sponsored insurance] and dependents covered by the job losers do not imply that 14.6 million individuals have lost ESI or become uninsured during the pandemic,” the foundation noted in its report.

“Rather, they represent an upper-bound estimate of ESI losses because the only available estimate suggests that roughly half of workers who have lost jobs with ESI have been furloughed or temporarily laid off and have continued to be covered by ESI.”

People who don’t have health insurance often face barriers to getting care and tend to suffer substantially from medical debt, experts previously told MarketWatch.

The average annual premium for job-sponsored health insurance in 2020 was $7,470 for single coverage and $21,342 for family coverage, according to the healthcare think tank KFF — translating to a 4% increase in both over the previous year. Meanwhile, wages rose 3.4% and inflation rose 2.1%, KFF said.

In a similar vein to the West Health/Gallup findings, one LinkedIn survey conducted in January found that nearly 3 in 4 workers were opting to “shelter in job” in some capacity, with reasons including collecting a steady paycheck (59%), enjoying company perks and benefits (30%), waiting out the coronavirus for a better job market (15%), and lacking the time or energy to devote to changing jobs (14%).

Others appear ready to make moves. Four in 10 people currently working remotely said in a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Prudential
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that if their workplace didn’t offer long-term remote work options, they would set their sights elsewhere.

One in five workers said they changed their line of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, that survey found, while one in four said they planned to job hunt once the pandemic threat subsided.



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