Consumer Confidence in Health Care Drops 5.2 Points in July

    • August 17, 2009

With the debate over health reform heating up in Washington, DC, and around the country, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Care Consumer Confidence Index (RWJF Index) found that Americans’ confidence in their health insurance coverage and access to health care dropped in July. The RWJF Index fell 5.2 points last month to 97.2, down from 102.3 in June.

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.

Since the RWJF Index was introduced in the spring of 2009, seniors who are eligible for Medicare have reported the highest confidence levels. While this group again reported the highest confidence level in July (106.8), their confidence dropped 10.4 points since the previous month. Individuals age 50-64 have consistently had the lowest confidence levels since the survey began. Last month, the confidence level for that group fell just 4.4 points from 95.1 points in June to 90.7 in July.

“Over the past few months, Americans have been increasingly bombarded with conflicting information about their health care, and some of it has probably been misinformation about health reform,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It is no surprise that consumer confidence in health care is erratic right now. People are confused about all of the different information they are hearing and not sure whom to trust.”

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

  • People are worried about being able to afford future care. More than half of all Americans (51.9%) 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 (47.1%) are worried that they will not be able to afford all of the routine health care services they need.
  • Americans are concerned they will not be able to afford future prescriptions. More than a third of those surveyed (35.6 %) report being worried that they will not be able to afford future prescriptions.
  • People are worried that medical bills will lead to bankruptcy. More than a quarter (29.6%) report being worried that they will go bankrupt from not being able to pay their medical bills.
  • People are delaying the care the need. More than one in five (20.1 %) report delaying needed medical care in the past year due to cost.
  • Americans are worried that they will not be able to afford their current coverage. Nearly one in five people (17.4%) report being worried about losing coverage because they will not be able to afford the increasing costs of their current coverage.

“We continue to see people struggling under the weight of our broken health care system,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “Americans are feeling uneasy about their ability to pay for future and current health care needs. Unless meaningful reforms are enacted to control cost and ensure timely access to a physician when one is needed, the number of Americans struggling to afford health care and worrying about how they will survive will likely 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 101.3 in June to 100.8 in July. The Future Health Cost Concerns Index measures consumers’ worries about accessing health care or health insurance in the future because of cost and dropped more substantially by 9.8 points in July to 93.6.

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.