updated 6/18/2009 9:02:50 AM ET 2009-06-18T13:02:50

Health care costs are weighing heavily on Americans, with nearly half of those polled in a new survey saying they're worried about paying for future care.

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In the survey, nearly one in four people said they feared of losing coverage in the next year. About the same number reported that they or a family member delayed seeing a doctor in the past year because of what it might cost.

The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted by the University of Michigan to measure consumer confidence in the health care system. The study was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health care philanthropic organization.

In its measure of consumer confidence about insurance coverage and access to care, the poll found a drop of 1.3 points from April to May. The confidence index, which the pollster and foundation officials initiated in May, was fixed at 100 points and dropped to 98.7. The index will be tracked and released monthly.

The poll comes as lawmakers in Washington consider a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system — a top legislative priority for President Barack Obama. More than three in four people, 86 percent, said they viewed health care reform as an integral part of tackling the nation's economic crisis, the survey said.

Overall, 46 percent of those polled worried they would not be able to afford health care in the future. In February, the government estimated that health care costs this year would average $8,160 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — an increase of $356 per person from 2008.

Concerns about losing insurance coverage in the next year were reported by 24 percent of those surveyed. The biggest group fearing such a loss were between 50 and 64 years old, and more women than men fretted about losing their health insurance.

"As the economy continues to falter, health care insecurity is becoming an even greater issue," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and chief executive of the foundation, which provides extensive financing for health care research.

It's estimated that nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured. The Senate this week took the first major step toward an overhaul as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began drafting legislation to revamp the health care system.

The Senate measure would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years but leave 37 million people uninsured, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

One of the brighter notes in the foundation poll: Eighty-six percent of people reported receiving quality health care — described as either good, very good or excellent. A higher number, 88 percent, had health insurance.

The telephone survey of more than 500 people had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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