NORC poll shows affording health care remains a serious problem

Americans' Views of Healthcare Costs, Coverage, and Policy

West Health Institute, NORC at the University of Chicago, March 2018

Five Things You Should Know

1) Three quarters of Americans say that our country doesn’t get good value for what we spend on healthcare.

2) Forty percent say they skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the last 12 months due to cost, and 32 percent were unable to fill a prescription or took less of it because of its cost.

3) Four in 10 say they fear the costs associated with a serious illness, which is more than the number who say they fear the illness itself.

4) Over half of Americans say they received a medical bill they thought was covered by insurance or where the amount they owed was higher than expected, and more than a quarter say they had a medical bill turned over to a collection agency in the past 12 months.

5) About half of Americans disapprove of the way their representative in Congress is handling the cost of healthcare.


Americans’ support for a single payer healthcare system has increased from 2017 to 2018.

In February 2018, 46 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat favored a single payer healthcare system, compared to 38 percent who said the same in an AP-NORC poll conducted in January 2017. Opposition to single payer has decreased during the same period, to 28 percent in 2018 from 39 percent in 2017. The number who say they neither favor nor oppose has remained steady in 2018 compared to 2017 (24 percent vs. 22 percent).

Americans who say they have experienced significant financial consequences due to healthcare costs are slightly more likely to favor a single payer system (50 percent vs. 41 percent). Employed adults are more likely to favor single payer healthcare (52 percent vs. 38 percent), as are Democrats compared with independents or Republicans (62 percent vs. 35 percent and 29 percent). On the other hand, blacks are more likely to oppose single payer than Hispanics (29 percent vs. 18 percent).



By Don McCanne, M.D.

This new NORC poll confirms once again that our health care financing system is failing too many Americans, with 40 percent saying they skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the last 12 months due to cost. In fact, the financial barriers are so great that more fear the costs associated with a major illness than fear the illness itself.

Although this poll does not show quite as much support for single payer as do most other polls, it does show that more individuals support single payer than oppose it and that support has increased in the past year while the opposition has decreased.

The most common reason given for continued opposition to single payer is that it would be disruptive to the dominant coverage in the United States - employer-sponsored health plans. Yet this poll shows that employed adults are more likely to favor single payer (52 percent favor vs. 38 percent oppose).

We still have more educating to do, but this poll shows that we're certainly headed in the right direction.

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