Skip to main content

Health Care Access Impacts Job Mobility

Monday, June 3, 2019

Paying medical costs difficult compared to other household expenses

West Long Branch, NJ – A national Monmouth University Poll finds that nearly half the country reports that their health care costs have continued to rise over the past two years and that they have difficulty meeting their medical expenses. More than one-quarter report that someone in their household has not received needed medical care because of the cost. The poll also finds that concerns about access to health insurance play a significant role in whether Americans choose to pursue new career opportunities.

Just under half (46%) of Americans report that their health care costs have gone up in the past two years – including 21% who say they have gone up a lot and 25% who say they have gone up somewhat. Another 44% say their health care costs have stayed the same and 6% say they have actually gone down.  This is slightly less negative than in 2017, when 52% said their costs had gone up (28% a lot and 24% a little), while 41% said they had stayed the same and 4% said they had gone down.

Just over 1-in-4 Americans (27%) report that someone in their household did not go for needed care in the past two years because of the expense involved, which is down slightly from 31% who said the same in 2017.  Furthermore, 1-in-5 Americans (20%) report that there has been a time in the past two years when they had to choose between paying for health care or other household expenses like rent or mortgage.  This is unchanged from 20% who said the same in 2017.

“The growth of health care costs remains a burden. There have been some slight improvements over the past two years, but a large number of Americans report that these concerns pervade nearly every aspect of their lives. The fact that health care is tied to employment has a negative impact for many people on job mobility and potential entrepreneurship,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

About half (49%) say that access to health insurance would be a major factor in their decision to pursue another career opportunity.  Another 21% say this would be a minor factor and 26% say it would not be a factor. The poll also finds that 20% of Americans say that the need to maintain their current health care plan actually kept from looking for or taking another job or starting a business in the past decade.

Health care remains one of the biggest financial burdens for American families.  While 48% say paying for health care deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses is easy for them, a nearly equal 45% say it is difficult to pay these bills. Also, 47% say paying their health insurance premiums is easy for them while 40% say it is difficult.  This compares similarly to paying taxes, which 51% say is easy and 41% say is difficult.  Americans have a relatively less difficult time meeting their monthly mortgage or rent payments (46% easy to 33% difficult) and grocery bills (69% easy to 30% difficult).  The number of people who say it easy for them to cover these different types of expenses has increased slightly since 2017 – from 43% to 48% for health care deductibles, from 42% to 47% for insurance premiums, from 48% to 51% for taxes, and from 62% to 69% for grocery bills, while housing costs have remained virtually unchanged from 45% to 46%.  The number of people who say meeting these costs are difficult have remained more stable over the past two years.

“Overall, the growing economy seems to have helped a small percentage of families have an easier time meeting their household expenses. But there is still a notable income gap when it comes to affording health care,” said Murray.

Problems with paying health care costs hit American families at all income levels, although it is harder at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.  For example, 52% of those earning less than $50,000 a year say it is difficult for them to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, which is somewhat higher than for those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (45%), and over $100,000 a year (33%).  Similarly, 47% of those earning less than $50,000 a year say it is difficult for them to pay health insurance premiums, which is somewhat higher than for those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (41%), and over $100,000 a year (30%).  However, the gap between lower-income and higher-income earners for being able to pay housing costs is larger than for health care. While 45% of those earning under $50,000 say it is difficult to meet their monthly mortgage or rent payment, just 28% of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and 19% of those earning over $100,000 say the same.  The only expense covered in the poll that shows income-based parity in the number of people who report having difficulty paying for it is the household tax bill, which is 41% of those earning less than $50,000, 40% of those earning $50,000 to $100,000, and 37% of those earning over $100,000.

Lower-income earners are more likely to say they have experienced needing to choose between paying for health care and other expenses (31% under $50,000, 18% $50,000 to $100,000, 8% over $100,000).  Not seeking out needed medical care is more likely to affect both lower-income and middle-income Americans (34% under $50,000 and 30% $50,000 to $100,000) than upper-income earners (17% over $100,000).  There are no significant differences by income in the number of people who report that their health care costs have increased in the past two years or in the impact of health care considerations on seeking out new career opportunities.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from May 16 to 20, 2019 with 802 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-27 previously released.]

28. I’m going to read you some typical household expenses.  For each, please tell me if it is very easy, somewhat easy, somewhat difficult, or very difficult for you to pay for it?  If you do not have this expense, just let me know. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Mortgage or rent payment

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Very easy 21% 17%
Somewhat easy 25% 28%
Somewhat difficult 24% 22%
Very difficult 9% 11%
Do not have this expense 19% 20%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 2%
 (n) (802) (801)

Grocery bills

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Very easy 33% 28%
Somewhat easy 36% 34%
Somewhat difficult 21% 26%
Very difficult 9% 7%
Do not have this expense 1% 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 1%
 (n) (802) (801)

Health insurance premiums

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Very easy 21% 19%
Somewhat easy 26% 23%
Somewhat difficult 22% 20%
Very difficult 18% 22%
Do not have this expense 11% 13%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 2%
 (n) (802) (801)

Health care deductibles and out of pocket expenses

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Very easy 20% 17%
Somewhat easy 28% 26%
Somewhat difficult 25% 25%
Very difficult 20% 21%
Do not have this expense 6% 9%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 3%
 (n) (802) (801)

Paying taxes

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Very easy 22% 20%
Somewhat easy 29% 28%
Somewhat difficult 26% 27%
Very difficult 15% 14%
Do not have this expense 6% 9%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 2%
 (n) (802) (801)

29. Have your health care costs gone up, gone down, or stayed about the same over the past two years?  [If GONE UP: Have they gone up by a lot or somewhat?]

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Gone up a lot 21% 28%
Gone up somewhat 25% 24%
Gone down 6% 4%
Stayed about the same 44% 41%
(VOL) Don’t know 5% 4%
 (n) (802) (801)

30. Has there been a time over the past two years that you had to choose between paying for health insurance or medical care and paying for things like rent or mortgage, or has this not happened?

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Yes, has happened 20% 20%
No, has not happened 79% 79%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 0%
 (n) (802) (801)

31. In the past two years, have you or anyone in your household not gone for needed health care because you felt you could not afford it, or has this not happened?

TREND: May
2019
March
2017
Yes, has happened 27% 31%
No, has not happened 73% 68%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 1%
 (n) (802) (801)

32. If you were looking for another job or thinking about starting a business, how much of a factor would access to health insurance be in your decision to look for another career opportunity – a major factor, a minor factor, or not a factor?

  May
2019
Major factor 49%
Minor factor 21%
Not a factor 26%
(VOL) Don’t know 4%
 (n) (802)

33. In the past ten years, have you ever thought about looking for or taking another job or thought about starting a business but did not pursue it because of the need to maintain your current health insurance coverage, or has this not happened?

  May
2019
Yes, has happened 20%
No, has not happened 78%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
 (n) (802)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from May 16 to 20, 2019 with a national random sample of 802 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 322 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 480 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
25% Republican
44% Independent
31% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
31% 18-34
33% 35-54
36% 55+
 
64% White
12% Black
16% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree
  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs