The Cost of Care Is What Ails Us

Americans continue to have a love/hate — or, at least, a like/hate — relationship with the country’s healthcare system.

Few are dissatisfied with the quality of the care they get, according to a new report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates. When asked about the care they’ve received in the past two years, 17 percent said they’re “extremely satisfied” with it, and another 32 percent said they’re “very” satisfied. Just over one in 10 said either “not too satisfied” (6 percent) or “not at all satisfied” (5 percent). (Most of the rest said they’re “somewhat” satisfied.)

Among respondents who have coverage, the study’s polling (fielded in May and June) also found a majority “extremely satisfied” (17 percent) or “very satisfied” (36 percent) with their current health plan. Moreover, 42 percent said they’re highly confident that they have “enough choice about who provides medical care.”

So much for the good news. The bad news starts with the fact that 47 percent are extremely dissatisfied with the cost of heath insurance and 46 percent are similarly unhappy about costs that aren’t covered by their insurance.

It doesn’t help matters that 55 percent of those with coverage have faced higher healthcare costs this year. And these people display some price sensitivity: Compared to those who haven’t endured higher costs, they’re more likely to “choose generic drugs when available” (74 percent vs. 60 percent) and more likely “to go to the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms” (62 percent vs. 48 percent). Twenty percent have failed to fill prescriptions or have skipped doses.

There is one positive trend: 76 percent of those facing higher costs said these “have led them to try to take better care of themselves.”