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Survey: Health Costs, Reform a Source of Stress for Americans

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, December 8, 2009

A new survey conducted by Misericordia University and Braun Research found that two in five Americans plan to spend less this holiday season as a result of rising health costs, and three in 10 said healthcare costs have led to arguments and tension with friends and family members.

The Health Care in America survey also concluded that the healthcare reform debate is a cause of stress and annoyance among the majority of Americans. Those surveyed reported that their top concerns with healthcare reform include the cost to future generations and its impact on the federal deficit, the cost of out-of-pocket expenses, and the accessibility of quality coverage.

"As we move closer and closer to healthcare reform legislation in this country, it is paramount that we keep in mind the impact that this process is having on individual Americans," said Misericordia University Michael MacDowell, EdD, in a statement.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. residents was conducted via telephone between Nov. 6 and Nov. 16. Other key findings of the report include:

  • Nearly a quarter of Americans admit that they would consider withholding information from an insurance provider if it might limit their ability to access healthcare.

  • At the same time, nearly 80% of those surveyed said they have not withheld information or "bent the truth" regarding compliance with a healthcare provider's instructions, lifestyle issues surrounding areas, such as exercise or smoking, and medical history.

  • Families and doctors are the most trusted sources of information for healthcare reform. Younger people (ages 18-34) trust President Obama on the issue, but the survey found politicians garner very little trust from Americans. In addition, though those surveyed said they put less trust in news programs, newspapers, and Web sites, they continue to turn to them for information on health reform.

  • The recession has pressured Americans to prioritize healthcare alongside other expenses, and many have changed their behavior, including dealing with illness without treatment and visiting the doctor less.

  • Nearly half of those surveyed tried to "get over" being sick without treatment and 98% are trying to visit the doctor less frequently. In addition, 11% of those surveyed were forced to drop healthcare coverage because of the recession, and 33% were concerned about losing their health insurance.

  • While more than 90% of Americans are satisfied with their insurance coverage, about 33% of Americans do not take advantage of preventive health testing/screenings even when it is available.

  • A quarter of those surveyed said the current discussion about health reform has impacted their use of their healthcare. Of those that said healthcare reform has impacted their decisions, 55% said they will only do what is absolutely necessary, and 28% said they will take advantage of everything covered by their insurance.

  • The majority of Americans feel either annoyed or frustrated by the current healthcare debate. Older Americans nearing retirement are following the debate more closely and tend to feel more anger, tension and helplessness.

  • Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said healthcare causes stress. Those with an annual household income of $30,000 or less were more likely (67%) to say that healthcare costs cause stress, while those with an income of $100,000 or more were much less likely to say health costs caused stress (28%).

  • Holiday spending will be lower this year for 40% of those surveyed because of rising healthcare costs. Those without health insurance are more likely than others to spend less, and the likelihood of spending less decreased as the household income of the respondent increased.

Ben Cole is an associate online editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at bcole@healthleadersmedia.com.

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