Our country's appetite for change, as evidenced by the recent election, seems to extend to our health care system. After years of rising costs and less accessibility to quality health care for millions of Americans, we finally seem ready to accept reform.
According to the 11th annual Health Confidence Survey conducted by the nonprofit Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), virtually all Americans say that affordable, high quality health care should be at the top of our nation's health care goals. Significantly, more than 80 percent are willing to support tax incentives and other government involvement as a way to make health care more affordable and more available.
Add to these statistics the fact that only 51 percent of respondents are extremely or very confident that they can get the treatments they need, and only 42 percent say they have adequate choice of medical providers -- and the desire for real health care reform seems pretty clear.
Not surprisingly, cost is one of the main health care issues today. I think we're all feeling a bit battered by rising health care costs -- from insurance premiums to prescription drugs -- especially when we're experiencing an economic slowdown.
Interestingly, while 55 percent of Americans with insurance coverage report an increase in costs in the past year, that percentage is actually down from 65 percent in 2007. On the face of it, that seems like a positive. But on the flip side, far fewer are satisfied with the cost of health insurance and with the cost of services not covered by insurance.
Especially troubling to me is that 42 percent of survey respondents are not too or not at all confident about the affordability of healthcare -- an increase from 36 percent last year. And this lack of confidence translates into daily decisions that can impact our health as well as our finances.
Consider that for Americans who have experienced cost increases:
-- 62 percent are more likely to go to the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms;
-- 29 percent have decreased their contributions to retirement;
-- 54 percent have decreased their savings;
-- 27 percent have difficulty paying for basic necessities.
When people are at the point of having to choose between their physical health and their financial health, the need for a cure for our health care system becomes more and more apparent.
When it comes to rating the quality of the nation's healthcare system, the percentages are pretty alarming. The majority rates it as fair or poor. Only a small minority rates it excellent (4 percent) or very good (11 percent).
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