30% in poll say they kept job for health benefits

September 26, 1991|By New York Times

Three in 10 Americans say they or someone in their household have at some time stayed in a job mainly to keep the health benefits, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll that provides some of the strongest evidence yet of pervasive concern about the costs of medical insurance and care.

This phenomenon, becoming known around the country as "job lock," was most prevalent in middle-income households, suggesting the rising potency of health care as a political issue.

Half the people say the nation's health care system needs fundamental changes and another 40 percent go even further, saying it must be completely rebuilt, the survey found.

And, in a striking sign of widespread insecurity, 29 percent of Americans said they or a family member had lacked health insurance at least temporarily during the past year, although only 1 in 10 said a family member was uninsured at the time of the poll.

While there is broad support for requiring employers to offer health insurance, an approach now being pursued by some congressional Democrats, the poll results suggest that many people feel more committed to the idea of sweeping change in the health system than to any particular approach.

Indeed, the health system may exceed abortion as an election issue. More people, 82 percent, said their vote would be influenced by candidates' positions on health care than the 63 percent who said it would be influenced by abortion.

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