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Insurance costs and benefits are top concerns of Americans

Soaring costs, loss of benefits top Americans' healthcare worries: Reuters/Ipsos poll

By Maria Caspani
Reuters, June 15, 2018

For over a year now, Americans have listed healthcare as the most important problem facing the country, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

When asked what concerns them about U.S. healthcare, this is what they had to say:

Total cost of health insurance

Sixty-five percent of Americans said in the poll that they are “very concerned” about the overall cost of health insurance, including premiums, deductibles and copays.

This concern is consistent throughout the country: A majority of both millennials and baby boomers, whites and minorities, Democrats and Republicans were worried about healthcare costs.

Prescription drugs

Nearly three in four Americans use prescription drugs, and 58 percent said they are “very concerned” about the cost of paying for them, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll. These drugs are expected to see the fastest annual growth over the next decade, rising an average of 6.3 percent per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Choosing care

Sixty-six percent of U.S. adults who took part in the survey said they were concerned about their ability to see a doctor of their choice going forward.

Medicare and Medicaid

About one in three U.S. adults said they were “very concerned” about losing benefits from government-run programs Medicare and Medicaid.

Enrollment in Medicare is expected to increase as baby-boomers reach retirement age, according to CMS projections, which will contribute to growing healthcare spending.

The poll also showed that 58 percent of Americans think Congress should keep the Affordable Care Act either entirely as it is, or with some fixes, while 24 percent think lawmakers should repeal it once an alternative law is passed and 18 percent want the ACA to be repealed immediately.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll surveyed 3,982 people in English in the United States from May 22 to June 3 and it has a credibility interval of about 2 percentage points.

https://www.reuters.com...

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Comment:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

Plenty of polls confirm the concern of Americans over high health care costs. This new Reuters/Ipsos poll provides some specifics that should be seriously considered as we address our health care cost concerns.

Two-thirds of Americans throughout all sectors - millennials, baby boomers, whites, minorities, Democrats, Republicans - are worried not just about health care costs in general but specifically about insurance premiums, deductibles and copays. It seems that the private insurance model of financing health care does raise significant concerns about affordability. People have to realize that it doesn't have to be that way.

Three-fourths of Americans use prescription drugs, and 58 percent say they are very concerned about the cost of paying for them. We need a better system of financing prescription medications.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they are concerned about their ability to see a doctor of their choice going forward. Although supporters of narrow provider networks contend that patients are quite willing to accept network restrictions in exchange for lower premiums, limiting choice of physicians is nevertheless a real concern for the majority. If we had an automatic, equitable method of financing health care that would eliminate the need for premiums, deductibles and copays, and did not need to rely on provider networks for cost containment, then certainly everyone would demand to have their choice of health care professionals and hospitals.

One-third of adults are very concerned about losing benefits under our government-run programs - Medicare and Medicaid. Concerns would likely be even less if we were all unified under an improved Medicare that covered everyone. The political support would be greater than it already is for our Medicare program, making a Medicare for all less vulnerable to political chicanery. Demonstrating how strong that support is, Speaker Paul Ryan just abandoned his career-long dream of diminishing the role of Medicare because he could not break through the political support it has.

The poll shows that 58 percent of Americans support keeping the Affordable Care Act entirely as it is or with some fixes. As is true of many polls, this is an incomplete question. It is designed to elicit support or opposition to the Affordable Care Act, but it does not offer the specific option of replacing ACA with a single payer improved Medicare for all. Other polls have repeatedly confirmed the very strong support for such a model of reform.

Yet much of the media seems to think that the options available are to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act as the Republicans would do, or to add a public option or Medicare buy-in as perhaps the Democrats would do. But these options would leave in place those concerns demonstrated by this poll - high premiums, deductibles and copays, high drug costs, loss of choice of health care professionals, and political vulnerability of our existing public programs.

What most people really want is a lifelong guarantee of affordable, accessible health care such as would be found in an improved Medicare for all. We have to intensify our education efforts until we reach a threshold wherein people fully understand that it is our current dysfunctional financing model that is at fault so that they will reject being limited to only pro-ACA or anti-ACA choices and instead demand an improved Medicare for all.

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