More than half of U.S. workers would either drop coverage or shop around for a less costly plan should the government tax health benefits, according to research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. However, the 39% who would stay with their current plan and level of coverage is up 10 percentage points over the past year.

The EBRI/MGA Health Confidence Survey reports that, should Congress make employment-based health coverage of U.S. workers taxable as a way to raise revenue and tame the federal deficit, 26% of wage earners would want to switch to a less expensive plan. Another 21% of respondents say they would try to get coverage directly from insurers, and 9% would want to drop coverage altogether.

Many employers are uncertain whether and how they’ll be able to offer health coverage as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rolls into effect, but the most recent HCS finds that health insurance remains the most important employee benefit to workers by far.

“Most Americans are satisfied with the health benefits they have now and prefer not to change the mix of benefits and wages,” says Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s health research and education program and author of the report. “About three-quarters say they are satisfied with the health benefits they currently receive, while 15% say they would trade wages to get more health benefits, and 9% say they would surrender health benefits for higher wages.”

Some 38% of those surveyed would prefer to continue getting coverage as they do today. Thirty-four percent prefer to choose their insurance plan, have their employer give them the money being spent on their behalf and then pay the rest themselves; 23% would rather that their company give them the money and allow them to decide whether to purchase coverage and how much to spend.

Most workers expressed confidence that their bosses or unions have chosen the best health plan available, though many would like more choices. Respondents were not as confident about choosing the best available plan if unions or employers did indeed cease offering coverage.

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