Americans Will Pay Health Insurance For Others

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Over two-thirds (or 68%) of Americans don't mind paying a small surcharge to help restaurants or retailers cover the fee of paying health insurance for its employees, according to research from Bankrate.com.

Millennials are the most supportive generation of businesses adding a nominal surcharge to each bill in order to help pay for employees' health insurance with 64% who agree with paying an extra 25 cents on their bill at a restaurant or store, the survey found. Millennials are also the group who are most likely to hold a job at a retailer or restaurant and lack health insurance. Only 39% of Americans ages 65 and older found this surcharge to be agreeable.

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"A few well-known local and national business leaders have floated the idea of adding a small surcharge to each bill in order to compensate for increasing health insurance costs," said Bankrate.com insurance analyst Doug Whiteman. "While most Americans may be able to swallow an extra 25 cents on their bill at their favorite restaurant, a sizable chunk or 22% said they would stop going to the business. I can only imagine this number increasing if businesses try to charge too much."

Also See: 7 Businesses That Have Tried to Protest Obamacare

One central Florida restaurant chain has already implemented a surcharge of 1% on its bills or 15 cents for a $15 lunch, he said.

"For most consumers, this is not a big deal at all," Whiteman said. "Most people in our survey indicated they would shrug it off and would pay the 25 cents."

While 22% said they would stop frequenting a business who would implement the surcharge, it is not known if those consumers would really follow up on their threat to boycott the business, he said.

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"The results might suggest that Americans understand it is a cost of doing business," he said.

The survey also found that few Americans feel their health insurance situation has gotten better with the advent of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Only 13% of Americans say their health insurance situation has improved compared to one year ago.

"While health insurance is more accessible now and the coverage available under most plans is better, the cost of self-purchased coverage is significantly higher than a year ago," said Carrie McLean, director of customer care at eHealth.com, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, Calif. "If you're not eligible for a government subsidy, it can really hit your pocketbook hard."

For example, eHealth's daily online index of health insurance costs shows that the average health plan selected by a single person as of April 28 had a monthly premium of $267. In 2013, the average monthly premium for a single person purchasing through eHealth was $197 per month."

The number of Americans reporting higher monthly healthcare spending outnumber those reporting lower spending by a ratio of greater than four to one.

Americans who want to repeal Obamacare edge out those who want to keep it in place by a slight margin of 45% who want to repeal it to 44% who like the new law. The survey also found that 51% of 50- to 64-year-olds say they would keep Obamacare rather than repeal it. This is an 11-point increase from the last time Bankrate asked this question in December 2013.

"After all the fireworks, people have gone back to their original hardened positions," Whiteman said. "It hasn't found more enemies or more fans. This shift in opinion among 50- to 64-year-olds can likely be attributed to the fact that Obamacare bars health insurance companies from denying coverage to customers with pre-existing health conditions. Since people in this age group are the ones most likely to experience discrimination, they really stand to benefit from this provision in the new law."

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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