Consumer Confidence in Health Care Rises in January

Concerns over losing coverage and the affordability of current coverage stabilize; fewer Americans report delaying or skipping care.

    • February 22, 2010

Americans’ confidence in their health insurance coverage and ability to access health remained relatively stable in January. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Care Consumer Confidence Index (RWJF Index) rose to 101.0 points in January, up slightly from a reading of 99.1 in December.

The survey also found that Americans continue to feel more secure in their ability to maintain their health care coverage. In January, 25.5 percent of Americans reported being worried that they will lose coverage in the next 12 months, down from 31.4 percent the previous month. In addition, last month 18.4 percent of people reported being worried that they can’t afford their current coverage, compared to 20.6 percent in December.

Additionally fewer people are skipping or delaying medical care and are more likely to rate the care they receive as “very good” or “excellent.” In January, fewer than one in five Americans (18.6 percent) reported delaying care because of cost, a drop from the previous month, when nearly one in four Americans (22.4 percent) reported delaying care. The percentage of Americans who said they skipped needed medical care because of cost dropped from 17.8 percent to 16.9 percent. When asked about the quality of their care 65.6 percent of respondents rated their care as “very good” or “excellent” compared to 59.7 percent in December.

“America’s economy continues to show signs of recovery and over the last few months we have seen consumer confidence in health care begin to stabilize as well,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “Despite this current trend, job numbers continue to lag and nearly a quarter of Americans are still concerned they might lose coverage. Now is a critically important time to assure Americans that they will have access to stable health coverage now and in the future.”

The RWJF Index is created from data collected by the Surveys of Consumers, with analysis 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 RWJF Index ranges from 0 to 200 – with baseline set at 100 in the Spring of 2009 – and is comprised of two sub-indices. The Recent Health Cost Barriers Index gauges consumers’ recent experiences accessing health care because of cost concerns and increased from 101.7 in December to 103.4 in January. The Future Health Cost Concerns Index measures consumers’ confidence about accessing health care or health insurance in the future because of cost and also increased from 96.5 in December to 98.7 in January.

In September of 2009, supplementary questions were added to the survey to track Americans’ interest in the health care debate and their feelings on what health care reform could mean for them as individuals as well as the county as a whole. The tracking questions do not factor into the overall RWJF Index score.

The tracking questions in January revealed a drop in individuals’ concern over the potential impact of health reform on their access to care. The number of Americans reporting that they believe their access to care under a reformed health care system would be worse decreased from 33.1 percent in December to 29.4 percent in January. Additional health reform tracking results from January include:

  • Nearly seven in 10 (69.1%) Americans believe that their finances will improve or stay the same under health reform.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65.1%) of people believe the country’s access to care will improve or stay the same if the health care system is reformed
  • A majority of Americans (57.9%) think that the nation’s finances will improve or stay the same under health reform.

These findings were consistent with tracking results from December.

The 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 more than 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.