Survey: Health Care a Top Worry for U.S. Workers

According to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, the results of a recent survey of more than 26,000 working Americans “paint a devastating picture of a health care system that costs too much, covers too little, leaves too many behind and is getting worse.”

The results of the poll, AFL-CIO's Health Care for America survey, were released during a March 25 telephone news briefing and revealed that most of those polled were insured and employed, and more than half were college graduates and/or in union jobs.

Yet an overwhelming number said they were struggling with the cost of health care. Ninety-five percent of the respondents said they are somewhat or very concerned about being able to afford health insurance in the coming years. One-third of the respondents reported that they skipped medical care because of cost, and a quarter had serious problems paying for the care they needed.

Overall, 95 percent said America’s health care system needs fundamental changes or should be completely overhauled, and 79 percent rate health as a top voters’ issue this year, according to the survey.

Sage Holden, a full-time librarian from St. Paul, Minn., was one of the many respondents who submitted a story illuminating how the U.S. health care system affected her and her family. She is dependent on medications for her diabetes, but she lives paycheck to paycheck and therefore struggles to pay the $22 copay for each trip to the doctor. Sometimes, she is forced to skip her medications and required doctor visits. As a result, she waited a very long time to have a doctor examine an unexplained lump on her foot, which she says is “a symptom worth worrying about if you are a diabetic.”

“It's really terrible to work hard all your life and have to worry about how to take care of yourself,” she said. “It's terrible and it's wrong.”

Union Appeals to Candidates for Health Care Reform

For this reason, AFL-CIO plans on presenting the results of the survey to the 2008 presidential candidates and others holding public office to convince them that the public health care system is in dire need of revamping.

The union said it rejects Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s health care proposals as insufficient to correct deficiencies in the health care system. AFL-CIO has not yet endorsed the proposals of either Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but said both offer more promising suggestions to correct current cost and access problems.

OccupationalHazards.com talked to Heather Booth, director of the AFL-CIO's health care campaign, about whether employers can play a part in improving health care policies for their workers. She said only the federal government can provide the real solution.

“This can't be resolved just employer by employer,” she said. “Unless there is a national solution, there is no way to have a watchdog on the costs to bargain over the price of prescription drugs, for instance, to ensure that some of the wastes and efficiencies are moved out of system, and that there are real alternative plans so that the plans themselves reflect the needs of the public and you can then keep your employer-based coverage, or have the option of a private plan or a public plan.”

“We think this will benefit employers as well as employees,” Booth added.

To see the full survey results, visit http://www.healthcaresurvey.aflcio.org.

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