After some pretty dour retirement news last Friday, I’m afraid I have more Gloomy Gus news today — this time related to health care.

According to a new survey from Thomson Reuters, Americans' confidence in their ability to access and pay for health care has hit its lowest level since December.

Overall confidence dropped to 95 points on the Thomson Reuters Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index in July — the lowest level since the index was launched in December 2009.

The index is based on telephone interviews with 3,000 people each month. Respondents are asked to characterize their household’s recent and anticipated use of healthcare services and their ability to access and pay for those services.

Compared with the June survey, people in July were significantly more likely to say they expect to delay or cancel physician visits, laboratory tests, or medical procedures in the next three months.

On every survey question responses were more pessimistic in July — to a statistically significant degree — than they were in December. "The index has been trending downward all year, but this is the first time we’ve seen that type of across-the-board decline," says Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters. "That’s a cause for concern to healthcare providers and policymakers."

And for employers as well, no? What do you think? Does consumers’ lack of health care confidence have you shaken as well? I would think so, since we know employees don’t always make the best health care decisions even when they do feel confident.

Do you have any plans during this enrollment season to help boost consumers’ confidence? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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