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Consumer Confusion & Health Care Reform
Posted by Sheree Johnson on Wednesday | June 20th, 2012
Consumers are confused and generally uninformed about how health care reform will impact them, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision looming on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Right after the hearings began in late March, Meers Business Intelligence surveyed consumers across the country on a variety of topics and issues related to health care reform and health insurance in general. In addition to the national survey, Kansas City served as a breakout market and received additional sampling. The survey was conducted the first week of April, 2012.
“As the Supreme Court began their hearings in late March, we believed there was a need to find out what consumers truly know, believe and are feeling about health care reform,” said Sheree Johnson, director, business intelligence at Meers. “While other research has primarily focused on attitudes and opinions of employers, providers and carriers themselves, most consumer research has either been proprietary or focused on attitudes and opinions about health care reform along political lines, or pre-election polls.”
Despite the fact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 were signed into law and some components began in July of 2010, only 6% of adults 18-64 throughout the country (with the same level in Kansas City) indicated that they were “very knowledgeable” about health care reform and how it will impact them and/or their family. 35% of national adults were “somewhat unknowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable” about health care reform, with slightly a lower level in Kansas City at 30%.
Health Care Reform Knowledge Varies by Gender/Age
Knowledge definitely varies by gender and age, with men 32% more likely to be very knowledgeable about health care reform, and women being 43% less knowledgeable. Consumers age 25-34 are 66% more likely to be “very knowledgeable” about health care reform versus other age segments.
Johnson believes this age group has a higher level of knowledge about reform as they are in the age range that is most likely to be impacted by the mandate to carry health insurance or face a tax penalty. With dependent coverage ending at age 26, and with this 25-34 age group being the healthier age segment, but with lower incomes, they are less likely to have insurance if not covered by a group policy through their employer.
And while uninsured consumers will now (pending the ruling) have to find insurance on their own via direct with a carrier or through a state supported insurance exchange, there is a great deal of confusion of what they believe is the definition of an insurance exchange. 41% of national consumers and 45% of Kansas City consumers said they simply “don’t know.” Only 26% of consumers nationwide, and 28% of Kansas Citians correctly identified the meaning of an exchange within the context of health care reform.
Consumers Describe Reform as “Too Much Government”
Regardless of whether or not they oppose or support health care reform, when consumers were asked to select the top five words or phrases among 20 listed (with an equal number pro/con) that they most closely associate with the health care reform law, “too much government” ranked the highest for both the national sample and the Kansas City sample with 43% and 53% selecting this phrase respectively. Other top words or phrases consumers associate with health care reform included:
There also appears to be confusion and speculation about how reform would impact the respondent personally. 31% of nationwide and 37% of Kansas City consumers indicated that they would be “worse off as a result of health care reform.” Just 19% of the national sample and 15% of the Kansas City sample indicated they would be “better off as a result of health care reform,” and 20% and 23% respectively said “health care reform will not impact me one way or another.” 29% of the nationwide panel and 25% of Kansas City indicated they “don’t know” how health care reform will impact them.
Health Care Reform Attitudes Generally Negative/Neutral
Again, regardless of if they support health care reform or not, consumers do not have a positive outlook of reform in terms of its viability and impact; and Kansas Citians have stronger negative opinions of its viability and impact.
“There are a lot of misgivings, confusion, negative attitudes and more among consumers around health care reform,” Johnson said. “Certainly political beliefs and affiliations play a huge role in skewing these attitudes, but people in general just really don’t know what to believe at this point.”
- A slight majority (52%) believe health care reform will cause taxes to increase (57% Kansas City); only 14% disagree that they will increase; 34% are neutral
- 49% believe the mandate portion of the health care reform law is unconstitutional (58% Kansas City); 19% disagree; 32% are neutral
- 49% believe the health care reform legislation will cause increased health insurance costs (56% Kansas City); 19% disagree; 32% are neutral
- 46% indicate that parts of the reform law are likely to be repealed this year or prior to 2014 (49% Kansas City); 9% disagree; 45% are neutral
- 45% believe reform will cause increased prices from providers (55% Kansas City); 18% disagree; 37% are neutral
- 44% believe that in the long-term, reform will increase access to health insurance coverage for most of the uninsured (36% Kansas City); 19% disagree; 37% are neutral
- 43% think it will cause longer wait times to see a doctor and/or wait times in the emergency room (57% Kansas City); 21% disagree; 36% are neutral
- 40% say they are confused about health care reform and need some straight answers (38% Kansas City); 22% disagree; 38% are neutral
- 34% think that there will be a flood of new carriers coming to the scene in 2014 or sooner selling health insurance (Kansas City is at the same level – 34%); 20% disagree; 46% are neutral
- Just 27% believe health care reform will eventually reduce health care costs (26% Kansas City); 39% disagree; 34% neutral
- Only 27% believe reform will stimulate positive competition and innovation (26% Kansas City); 36% disagree; 37% are neutral
Consumers Don’t Necessarily Feel They Are Healthy
When asked to rank their health on a scale of 1-10 (10 = excellent health), nationally, 54% of consumers would give themselves a score of 7 or less. 33% indicated they have a chronic condition such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity, etc.
Kansas City consumers rank themselves somewhat healthier with 48% giving themselves a score of 7 or less. But 34% indicated they have a chronic condition such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity, etc.
The study was conducted the week of April 2 with an online panel of consumers from across the country, age 18-64. The sample size reflects a 95% confidence level that results are statistically reliable within a +/- 5% national margin of error, and +/-8% margin of error in Kansas City.
Other non-proprietary topics explored in the study included what types of activities can help improve the performance of the nation’s health care system; the consumer’s role in managing health care costs; satisfaction level of health care providers, carriers and services; and health and wellness program availability and participation. (See graphs.)
“We did this study to provide us more consumer insight on this important issue relative to the clients we serve,” said Sam Meers, Meers president and CEO. “No doubt these attitudes will continue to evolve with the Supreme Court ruling, and certainly as we get closer to the Presidential Election and the ongoing national dialog and debate on health care reform.”