Another Health Care Poll: Surprising Results, Predictable Press Release

John Goodman, PhD, has dissected a national survey by the Center for Studying Health System Change, which shows (despite CHSHC’s “spin”) that the share of uninsured Americans concerned with the cost of their health care has decreased slightly from 2003 to 2007. However, both uninsured and insured patients are more frustrated by the bureaucratic hassles in health care (which are a result of over insurance, not under insurance).

Similarly, the California Health Care Foundation (an organization whose research I rely upon frequently) has released a poll of Californians, conducted by Harris Interactive. The title is Worry and Neglect: Californians’ Respond to the Rising Cost of Care.

It’s a frightening situation. According to the press release: “Almost half say they worry ….. about being unable to get care due to excessive cost”, and “….. that those who neglect care due to cost have have higher rates of hospitalization and emergency room use.”

Digging into the poll shows some interesting details that counter this conclusion. For example, the share of respondents who feared not being able to pay for health care upon retirement (51%) did not move at all between 1997 and 2007. Strangely, while the share of respondents which feared inability to afford required care when ill rose from 32% to 47% over the decade, the share which thought health insurance was becoming too expensive dropped from 49% to 35%; the share which feared substantial cut-backs under their current health plan dropped from 44% to 29%; and the share fearing that their current employer would drop health benefits dropped from 28% to 11%.

This may simply tell us that surveying citizens about health care is a waste of time (as I’ve queried before). Nevertheless, it sure looks like that there’s significantly less “worry and neglect” than the CHCF leads us to believe.

What about all those folks who can’t pay for health care, and crowd the ERs instead? I’ve addressed this recently in my examination of the California health reform bill, ABX1 1. Nevertheless, CHCF suggests that the ER “crisis” is caused by patients’ cost concerns. Yes, the poll reports that 38% of respondents who (self-reportedly) “neglected care” subsequently reported to the ER, but only 24% of those who had not neglected care.

However, those who had “neglected care” were undoubtedly less healthy than the others, whatever their financial circumstances. Indeed, of the 38% who had “neglected care” and presented to the ER, only 20% had “neglected” care due to cost. 18% had no cost concerns – they just decided to go to the hospital for “free”, instead of paying for care.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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