Faced with a double-barreled crisis of shrinking health care coverage and fast-rising medical costs, two out of three American adults (67 percent) now think health care coverage should be a “guarantee” as in Canada, Britain and other nations.
Three out of four American adults (78 percent) agree that health care is a necessity like water, gas and electricity and should be “regulated by government.” The same share of Americans – including a surprising 71 percent of conservatives – would support health insurance companies being treated like auto insurance companies that have to get the permission of some states before raising premiums.
These are among the key findings of “Americans & Health Care Reform: How Access and Affordability Are Shaping Views,” a new national opinion survey of 1,020 U.S. adults conducted between September 2-5, 2004 by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Results For America (RFA), a project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute.
The new RFA survey documents strong levels of support for extensive health care reform in the face of a worsening crisis in both health care access and rising medical costs. According to the survey findings, half of U.S. adults with health insurance – an estimated 100 million people – have seen their coverage cut and/or out-of-pocket costs go up. A third of adults (34 percent) who use prescription medications already buy or are planning to purchase cheaper drugs from Canada or other nations. Additionally, more than 20 million Americans (18 percent of those buying prescription medications) are so worried about drug costs that they are taking chances with their health by skipping or reducing medicine doses in order to “stretch” their medications.
Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo said: “This is a picture of American health care in crisis. For many Americans, the time for debating is over about the need to support tough new steps to ensure that they can get medical treatment when they need it. These ideas may not yet have caught on in Washington, but they are being debated in state capitols around the United States. It could very well turn out that the next wave of major health care reforms comes from the grassroots to Washington. Lawmakers who are closer to the people already understand that Americans are panicking today.
Americans want continued access to ‘medically necessary’ treatment and they understand that real controls may have to be imposed by government in order to rein in hospital and pharmaceutical costs. There is a simple and insidious math at work here: The longer our leaders fail to take steps to ensure access to reasonably priced health care, the more millions of Americans will be squeezed out of the health care system and left out in the cold.”
Opinion Research Corporation Senior Researcher Wayne Russum: “Most Americans are concerned about reduced health insurance coverage and high prescription drug prices. As a result, they appear more willing to look at new ways to ensure access to affordable health care. The depth of concern among the public about health care may be seen in the strong majorities that now support major reforms and the lack of meaningful differences among demographic groups. For example, while there is some variation along political lines, large percentages of conservatives now join moderates and liberals in supporting sweeping health care reforms.”
Key Survey Findings
Access to health care and the cost of medications are an increasingly severe problem for tens of millions of Americans: