Consumer Confidence in Health Care Drops 1.1 Points In August

Uncertainty about health care increase among seniors and young adults-second straight month of decreasing confidence.

    • September 15, 2009

With intense debate and activism at town hall meetings across the nation last month, Americans’ confidence in their health insurance coverage and ability to access to health care dropped slightly in August. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Care Consumer Confidence Index (RWJF Index) fell 1.1 points in August to 96.1, down from 97.2 in July.

The RWJF Index is created from data collected by the Surveys of Consumers, with analysis of the data provided by the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC). The survey evaluates consumer confidence along a spectrum of economic issues including American health care.

The August survey saw a continued slide in confidence among seniors who are eligible for Medicare, with their confidence dropping 3.6 points to 103.3 in August. Confidence among survey respondents in this age group has dropped a combined 14 points over the past two months. There was also a notable drop in the confidence of young adults in August. The confidence level of adults age 18-34 fell 5.5 points, from 102.3 points in July to 96.8 in August.

“August was a tumultuous time in the health care debate, and many Americans were left feeling concerned about the future and confused by all the conflicting information,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “With Congress back in session, our leaders must reassure the American people that they will work together and in the public’s interest to find common ground and reform our broken health care system.”

The RWJF Index ranges from 0 to 200. Baseline was established at 100 in spring 2009. August highlights show:

  • People are worried about being able to afford future care. More than half of all Americans (52.5%) are worried that they will not be able to pay for their future health care needs in the event of a serious illness. Additionally, nearly half (48%) are worried that they will not be able to afford all of the routine health care services they need.
  • A minority of Americans are concerned that they will not be able to afford future prescriptions. Fewer than half (43.7%) report being worried that they will not be able to afford future prescriptions.
  • Some people are worried that medical bills will lead to bankruptcy. More than a quarter (29.7%) report being worried that they will go bankrupt from not being able to pay their medical bills.
  • Some fear that they will lose coverage. More than a quarter of people (29%) are worried about losing their health insurance at some point in the next 12 months.
  • Some are worried about cuts to existing public programs. More than one in five (22.2%) of people receiving coverage from public programs are worried about cuts to public programs.
  • Some are delaying and skipping the care they need. More than one in five (21.3%) report delaying needed medical care in the past year due to cost. In addition, 21 percent report skipping care due to cost.

Americans have seen that rising health care costs have put them in a position where they are gambling with their health and financial well being by delaying medical care and needed prescriptions,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “If our leaders don’t enact responsible reforms that ensure timely access to high-quality care for everyone, consumer confidence in health care will continue to drop and fears about the future will increase.”

The RWJF Index is comprised of two sub-indices compiled by SHADAC. The Recent Health Cost Barriers Index gauges consumers’ recent experiences accessing health care because of cost concerns and dropped slightly from 100.8 in July to 100 in August. The Future Health Cost Concerns Index measures consumers’ worries about accessing health care or health insurance in the future because of cost and dropped by 1.4 points in August to 92.2.

The survey data for the indices are collected from questions added to the Surveys of Consumers written to construct the RWJF Index. The survey items measure access to health care, health insurance and future concerns regarding health care. For over 50 years, the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan has conducted the Surveys of Consumers which has been an accurate indicator for understanding and forecasting changes in the national economy. The survey’s Index of Consumer Expectations is an official component of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Care Consumer Confidence Index is released the third Tuesday of every month.