To paraphrase New Hampshire’s state motto, “Don’t Tread on My Heath Insurance Plan.”

Americans are increasingly unhappy about so-called ObamaCare. A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that more than half of Americans don’t understand the full implications of the Affordable Care Act [ACA] and 1 out of 4 say it should be repealed immediately.  

In a separate poll, nearly 70% of those at the bottom of the income ladder, (i.e. individuals who are supposed to be helped most by health insurance reform) don’t believe their family will see any benefit.

It’s no wonder we’re upset. According to the non-partisan Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI], 70% of American workers have access to health insurance through their employer and 84% who are offered it, take it. 

In fact, in terms of providing financial protection, 85% of employees say it’s the single most important benefit an employer can provide.  In comparison, 48% cited Social Security. (Respondents could rank multiple benefits as “extremely important.”)

Moreover, despite passage of ObamaCare we’re less- not more- secure that we will continue to have work-based health insurance.  In May, two months after the health reform act was passed, a separate EBRI survey found that a little more than half of working Americans (52%) are “extremely” or “very” confident that they or their spouse would be offered health insurance by either an employer or union- a 7% drop from last year.

It turns out, contrary to conventional wisdom, regardless of age, the vast majority of us are very aware of the array of benefits offered by the company for which we work.

For instance, while 76% of workers ages 58 to 64 know that their employer offers them a chance to purchase disability insurance, the awareness level was nearly identical (72%) for those ages 18 to 34.

“When you think of this young age cohort, disability isn’t something you expect them to focus on,” says Ken McDonnell, director of the American Savings Council [ASEC], an EBRI offshoot.  “I was pleasantly surprised.” 

As you might expect, there are some demographic differences.

Older workers, for instance, place a higher value on having a retirement plan offered through work; those in their 30s and 40s (family-raising years) are more interested in life insurance.

According to McDonnell, the key take-away from the survey, which was done in conjunction with the Financial Services Roundtable, is that “Americans are aware of the benefits being offered by their employer and place a high value on them.” 

Yet we’re already hearing warnings that the added requirements of the health-care act will cause some companies to reduce the health insurance they offer and/or increase the co-payments employees pay.  

Hewitt Associates, a benefits consulting firm, estimates that large firms (those with an average of 16,000 employees) will see their health insurance costs go up nearly 9% next year -- to $9,821.  At smaller companies, the cost per worker tends to be higher.  Experts say while most of the increase is due to medical advances and an aging workforce, health-care reform is responsible for 1% to 2%. 

One group specifically left out of the coverage requirements of the ACA is illegal immigrants, which is a big deal. When I worked as a television reporter in San Diego it was common for women in the late stage of pregnancy to do whatever they could to cross into the U.S. from Mexico so that their child could be born on this side of the border. Not only were they admitted to a local San Diego hospital and given the finest medical care available -- all paid by the government-- their child was immediately granted U.S. citizenship.

That was 30 years ago!

Do you honestly expect hospitals and other medical providers will turn away a sick individual today just because they don’t have proof of citizenship?  Which means that so-called health care “reform” still leaves taxpayers holding the bag for this. 

So what do you think?  Is health reform really going to make medical care more affordable?

Ms. Buckner is a Retirement and Financial Planning Specialist at Franklin Templeton Investments. The views expressed in this article are only those of Ms. Buckner or the individual commentator identified therein, and are not necessarily the views of Franklin Templeton Investments, which has not reviewed, and is not responsible for, the content. 

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