Public Strongly Supports Action on Health Care Reform, But
Majority Think It Can Be Done Without Additional Spending
Trust in President Obama on Health Reform is High
Menlo Park, CA – As economic conditions continue to worsen, the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, with many postponing or skipping treatments due to cost in the past year and a notable minority forced into serious financial straits due to medical bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s first health care tracking poll of 2009.
In the face of the country’s current economic challenges, the public’s support for health reform remains strong and their trust in President Obama to do the right thing in health care reform is high.
Slightly more than half (53%) of Americans say their household cut back on health care due to cost concerns in the past 12 months. The most common actions reported are relying on home remedies and over-the-counter drugs rather than visiting a doctor (35%) or skipping dental care (34%). Roughly one in four report putting off health care they needed (27%), one in five say they have not filled a prescription (21%), and one in six (15%) say they cut pills in half or skipped doses to make their prescription last longer (see chart).
“Experts and policymakers have multiple agendas in health reform, but when half the public reports skimping on care because they can’t afford it, it’s very clear that what the public wants most from health reform is relief from health care costs,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.
The 27 percent of the public that reported they had “put off or postponed getting health care [they] needed” were asked about the specific types of care they had foregone. The most common responses were delaying going to the doctor for a temporary illness (19%) or for preventive care (19%). But nearly as many—16 percent—report putting off care for a more serious problem, either postponing a doctor’s visit related to a chronic illness such as diabetes or delaying major or minor surgery.
Not all medical care can be postponed, however, and the survey indicates that roughly one in five (19%) people experienced serious financial problems recently due to family medical bills. Specifically, 13 percent say they have used up all or most of their savings trying to pay off high medical bills in the past 12 months, and just as many say their medical debt means they have difficulty paying other bills. A similar proportion (12%) say they have been contacted by a collection agency, while a smaller share (7%) report being unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat or housing.
Beyond actual financial hardship due to medical care, the survey also indicates a rise in worries associated with health care costs. Nearly half of Americans (45%) report they are “very” worried about having to pay more for their health care or health insurance, the highest proportion measured in Kaiser polls since late 2006. Roughly four in 10 (38%) are very worried about affording health care they need—a number that rises to 56 percent among those who believe someone in their household will lose a job this year.
Fully one-third (34%) of those with health coverage are worried they will lose it. While these concerns are prevalent among low-income Americans, one-third of households earning between $30,000 and $75,000 per year are also “very worried” about losing their health care benefits.
Support for Action on Health Care Reform Strong, But High Expectations Pose Challenge
The share of Americans who say that the country’s economic problems make it more important than ever to take on health care reform has remained remarkably stable over the past five months at roughly six in 10 (62%). However, the partisan divide also remains large with Democrats overwhelmingly (79%) saying reform is more important than ever and most Republicans (58%) saying the nation cannot afford to tackle health care reform at this point. Independents tilt the balance by being in favor of reform now (57%).
Health care continues to rank as one of the top issues on the nation’s policy agenda. The economy dominates (71%) the public’s priorities for the president and Congress, followed by making Medicare and Social Security more financially sound (49%)—a new issue added to the list this month. Terrorism (42%) and health care (39%) rank third and fourth.
Health Spending Projections Through 2018: Recession Effects Add Uncertainty To The Outlook
By Andrea Sisko and colleagues at Office of the Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
February 24, 2009
Projected spending for 2009:
- $2,509.5 billion - National Health Expenditures (NHE)
- $8,160.3 - NHE per capita
- 17.6% - NHE as percent of GDP
These are the most reliable numbers to use that represent our health care spending for this year. Rounding off these numbers makes them easier to remember and eases communication of the amounts:
- Total health spending is two and one-half trillion dollars
- Health spending per person is over 8100 dollars
- That amounts to about seventeen and one-half percent of our GDP
This post was modified from its original form on 27 Feb, 0:50
A Report from Familes USA, March 2009
Americans at Risk: One in Three Uninsured
To find out how many people are affected by being uninsured, Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to analyze data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), as well as from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which is conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This analysis found that 86.7 million people—one out of every three Americans under the age of 65—was uninsured for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. These Americans have had to pay for medical care out of their own pockets, or they have had to delay needed care altogether.
Who are these uninsured Americans? No one is protected from the risk of uninsurance. People in all age groups, of every race and ethnicity, and across all income ranges are affected. While most of us have health insurance through our jobs, four out of five uninsured Americans are from working families. Many of these working families are at great risk today as more and more workers get laid off and lose their ability to retain health coverage.
This report offers a closer look at the number of uninsured Americans, who they are, and how long they are uninsured. We also discuss the major underlying reasons for the growth in the number of uninsured.
Seventy-two percent of those questioned in recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say they favor increasing the federal government's influence over the country's health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans, with 27 percent opposing such a move. Other recent polls show six in 10 think the government should provide health insurance or take responsibility for providing health care to all Americans.
This post was modified from its original form on 08 Mar, 0:03
This post was modified from its original form on 08 Mar, 0:06