Only 52% of employees are confident their employer will continue to offer health benefits, down from 68% in 2000. The

number of employees not at all confident more than doubled to 16% from from 7% in 2000, according to the EBRI 2010 Health Confidence Survey. Its research shows that the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act has accelerated people’s fears about the future of healthcare as an employee benefit.

“I’m surprised that the results on confidence haven’t changed all that much despite health reform, attempts at health reform, and the ups and downs of the economy,” said Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate at EBRI, who authored the study.

People are scared about healthcare costs in retirement, too, as Medicare is facing a budget shortfall. One possible solution to the problem would be to increase the age of full Medicare coverage to age 68 from age 65, sweetening the deal by lowering eligibility for partial coverage to age 62. The public isn’t convinced: 70% of respondents to the survey oppose the plan.

That’s hardly surprising. EBRI says that the average retirement savings shortfall is $48,000 per individual after Social Security is factored in; healthcare costs double that amount for women, who pay $46,425 on average out of pocket for healthcare. Men, who die earlier, pay an average $32,433.

What’s more, “people are cutting back on retirement savings and other savings because of rising health care costs,” Fronstin said. “There are opportunities for advisors to incorporate planning for healthcare costs, especially in retirement, into overall financial planning.”