New Tracking Poll Reveals Public’s Health Experiences and Views on Reform

The Kaiser Family Foundation released its first health care tracking poll of 2009 and the results show that a majority (62%) of Americans say that the country’s economic problems make it more important than ever to take on health care reform. They also say that if policymakers made the right changes, they could reform health care “without spending more money to do it.

The survey, conducted February 3 through February 12, 2009, among a nationally representative random sample of 1,204 adults, also found that seven in 10 Americans (72%) have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in President Obama “to do or recommend the right thing for health care reform.”

The survey also explored what Americans hear when policymakers talk about health care reform. It fund that they predominantly are thinking about cost and coverage. When asked what “health care reform” means to them, 40 percent of the public respond with a cost concern – people paying less for care, care being more affordable, or lowering the prices of medical goods such as prescription drugs. Just as many (39%) describe reform as providing insurance to more people or helping the uninsured. Quality or delivery system reform did not leap to the minds of Americans with only nine percent mentioning it in their responses.

Furthermore, the survey found that 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.

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.

The full question wording, results, charts and a brief on the poll can be viewed online at http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/posr022509pkg.cfm.

One thought on “New Tracking Poll Reveals Public’s Health Experiences and Views on Reform

  1. These numbers actually seem a bit milder than I would have thought . . . but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that there is a storm brewing.
    You only have to look at the comments on this recent NYT post (http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/ideas-for-fixing-health-care/) to see that there are a lot of people who feel so strongly about change that they’re espousing darn near anything.
    I think that these numbers are going to look a lot worse before they start looking better. And I truly hope that we’re not going to see a health care war being waged on the editorial pages, but I fear that we’re headed in that direction.

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