It Only Hurts When I Pay: Getting Sick of Our Animus Toward Managed Care?

If it’s true that venting one’s hostilities is conducive to good health, then managed care has been a godsend for Americans. They certainly haven’t bottled up their ill will toward the system. Even as they enjoy badmouthing the setup in general, though, people tend to be largely satisfied by their own medical plans. This could help explain why anti-managed-care sentiment has flagged a bit. A new Harris Interactive survey on the subject finds a decline in the number of people who think managed care will “harm the quality of medical care”—from 59 percent in 2000 to 51 percent this year. In the chart here, you’ll see a similar drop in the proportion of respondents who think managed care is a bad thing overall, albeit without any rise in the number who feel it’s a good thing. One intriguing wrinkle in the data: Upscale Americans (who tend to have good medical care) are much more antagonistic toward managed care than poorer people (who tend not to have such good care). On the downside, meanwhile, fewer people are convinced that managed care accomplishes one of its core missions: containing medical costs. In a 1995 Harris survey, 59 percent of respondents said it “will help to contain costs.” The number of Americans holding that opinion has fallen steadily since then—to 54 percent in 1996, 48 percent in 1998, 39 percent in 2000 and 34 percent in this year’s poll.