“The Dow Jones Industrial Average was on the brink of claiming a thousand-point milestone for the first time since January 2018, ending the longest period without crossing such a psychologically significant level since the blue-chip benchmark crossed the 19,000 threshold three weeks after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016,” Mark DeCambre of MarketWatch wrote yesterday morning.
He noted that President Trump, “tweeted a simple call-out to the intraday record: ‘Dow just hit 27,000 for first time EVER!'” clipped here from Twitter.
Indeed, the U.S. macro-economy has nearly full employment and the stock market hit a high mark this week.
But even with such strong national statistics, about one-half of Americans feel their personal economic condition is getting worse, and another half say their condition is only fair or poor.
This financial worrisome state of American households is reported in a Gallup Poll report, Despite U.S. Economic Success, Financial Anxiety Remains, published today based on data from the pollster’s annual financial survey conducted in April.
“Worried” in this poll is a feeling of strong anxiety or unease, as Gallup defines the term, and signals a fear of an anticipated threat.
Gallup’s top-line: while the economy is “the greatest in the history of America” in the words of President Trump, most Americans’ anxious feelings about their home economics have not improved much since he moved into the White House in January 2017.
One in two Americans have at least one immediate worry like paying for housing or making minimum payments on credit cards.
One-half worry about health care finances — paying for anticipated health care expenses (say, a premium cost or co-payment for a service) as well as paying medical costs occasioned by a major illness or accident.
Ten percent of people have longer-term concerns about finances, such as funding retirement or paying for college for a child.
People with immediate cash concerns tend to be Democrats disapproving of President Trump, with a higher anxiety about health care spending, as well.
Importantly, “many Trump admirers [are] worried about health care [and] long-range bills,” Gallup notes.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Consumer Price Index rose 2.1% year-on-year between June 2018 and June 2019, according to the latest report published this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This CPI report disaggregates various line-items in the family budget such as food, energy costs, housing, and health care by specific category. The three line graphs illustrate CPI trends for the past twelve months (June 2018-2019) for prescription drugs (down 2.0%), hospital spending (up 0.5%) and health insurance, which grew 13.7% — six times faster than the overall Consumer Price Index, and much faster than hospitals and the (short-term) deflated prescription drug price inflation. [We must hasten to add that Rx CPI was driven down by the influence of generic drug prices in the past year].
We can expect that this health insurance CPI stat will be used in the coming months to point to the continued need for health reform, and in particular a call for universal health care in some form, and stabilization of health insurance marketplace and calls for greater competition in local markets to nudge insurance premiums downward.
Gallup’s bottom-line connects the dots between financial anxiety — “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind…a channel into which all other thoughts are drained,” citing Arthur Somers Roche’s words — and a majority of Americans’ concerns about paying for health care and funding retirement, which are the tectonic forces underpinning our current fiscal stress.
As a forecaster, I’m watching this trend as part of my crystal ball-thinking as health consumers morph to health citizens — the theme of my book, HealthConsuming.
“A substantial portion of Republicans,” Gallup says, are also looking for a national solution to health reform. Expect moderate Democrats to appeal to this potential cross-over voting bloc in the coming months as a lead-up to the Democratic primaries and eventual 2020 Presidential Election. This happened in the 2018 mid-terms and, watching the CPI for health care’s components over the coming months — in addition to health insurance, prescription drug costs — will drive millions of financially-anxious people to the polls.