While they regard it as the most critical issue in the nation,U.S. workers rate the health care system poorly, according to a newstudy by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald &Associates.

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But they also say they’re highly satisfied with their own healthplans. That doesn’t mean they’re happy about the cost, though; just22 percent are extremely or very satisfied with the cost of their health insurance plan, and only18 percent are satisfied with the costs of health care services notcovered by insurance.

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Also, 48 percent of workers say they’ve experienced an increasein health care costs in the past year, about thesame percentage as in 2016 and 2015, but down from 61 percent in2013.

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Those costs are taking a heavy toll. Among the workers reporting costincreases, 26 percent say they’ve cut retirement plan contributions as a result, and43 percent have cut contributions to other savings. More than aquarter say they’ve had a tough time paying for basic necessities,such as food, heat and housing, while 36 percent say they’ve haddifficulty paying other bills.

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Nearly a third say they’ve run through all or most of theirsavings or have increased their credit card debt, 22 percent haveborrowed money, 27 percent have delayed retirement, 19 percent havedropped other insurance benefits, 15 percent have taken a loan orwithdrawal from a retirement plan and 13 percent have purchasedadditional insurance to help with expenses.

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The study finds that that 31 percent of workers rate health careas the top concern in America, with 60 percent of employees sayingthat health coverage is an extremely important consideration forthem in whether to stay in their jobs. In fact, they rate havinghealth coverage as more important than having a retirement plan(just 41 percent said the latter is extremely important).

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That doesn’t mean they think all that highly of the health caresystem in the U.S., however, with 55 percent rating it only fair(30 percent) or downright poor (25 percent) in 2017. And whileemployees were either extremely or very confident about accessingmedical treatment and confident about their ability to pay for it,when asked about how treatment and affordability would look 10years from now, their confidence levels fell.

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According to the study, 45 percent of workers indicate that, atpresent, they are extremely or very confident about their abilityto get the treatments they need today. However, just 34 percent areconfident about their ability to get needed treatments during thenext 10 years, and a scant 26 percent are confident about this oncethey are eligible for Medicare.

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In addition, 30 percent of workers say they are confident thatthey are able to afford health care without financial hardshiptoday, but that drops to just 26 percent when they’re asked toproject care’s affordability over the next 10 years, and evenlower, to 23 percent, when they’re asked to consider itsaffordability once they’re on Medicare.

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