NCHC Writer
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For Immediate Release: April 23, 1998

Pat Schoeni
(202) 637-6839Public Concern About Health Care on the Rise

The American public has a much broader and higher level of concern about health care than is reflected in the words and actions of many of their elected officials. People increasingly are worried about losing insurance coverage, paying for care if they lack coverage, and the quality of their care, even if they are insured. These concerns exist independent of the types of plans in which patients are enrolled. And in contrast to the past, today those concerns also exist among middle-class Americans and especially those who have had recent contact with our health care system. In fact, the majority of Americans think the health care system is seriously flawed, and their confidence and trust in that system is eroding.

These are among the conclusions from a new analysis of 22 public opinion surveys on health care conducted between December 1996 and December 1997. Taken together, the surveys represent the sentiments of almost 35,000 American consumers. The analysis, conducted by Joel Miller, policy director at the National Coalition on Health Care, is the first to probe for common themes among disparate recent surveys.

“The public’s concern about the very real and serious problems in our health care system is growing as, indeed, the problems are growing,” said Henry E. Simmons, M.D., President of the Coalition. “At a time when most Americans are optimistic about the economy and their future, they are pessimistic about their ability to continue to obtain and afford access to high quality health care, especially if they become seriously ill. This concern is grounded in their personal experiences or those of a relative or friend,” he added.

“The magnitude of those concerns stands in sharp contrast to the smaller, incremental legislative initiatives being advanced to deal with these problems,” Dr. Simmons noted.

Among other conclusions:Although low-income Americans are more vulnerable to loss of coverage and high out-of-pocket costs, middle-class, working families are increasingly concerned and at risk.Worry over health care access, cost and quality goes deeper than the recent wave of anger at restrictions in or absence of treatment choice.Concern about rising cost, loss of coverage and access to high quality health care appears to be on the rise.Four in 10 Americans personally have had a “bad experience” with medical care.

“It appears that the public has not taken much comfort from recent incremental steps in Congress to address gaps in health insurance coverage, e.g., the Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation in 1996 and last year’s expansion of coverage for children,” Dr. Simmons concluded.

The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s largest and most broadly representative non-partisan alliance working to improve America’s health and health care system. Presidents Carter and Ford serve as honorary Co-chairs. Its almost 100 member organizations include large and small businesses, labor unions, consumer groups, religious organizations, physician’s groups and academic health centers. The Coalition’s membership represents over 100 million Americans.###

Full copies of “A Reality Check: The Public’s Changing Views of our Health Care System” are available by contacting the National Coalition on Health Care at (202) 637-6830.

Full Report: “A Reality Check: The Public’s Changing Views of our Health Care System

Executive Summary: Executive Summary, The Public’s Changing View’s on our Health Care System

Key Findings: Key Findings on the Public’s Changing View on our Health Care System

For more information, contact the Coalition at [email protected] or call (202) 637-6830.

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