Americans are growing increasingly concerned about covering health care costs in the future. Those people age 55-64 are most concerned, with rising concerns among seniors.

Furthermore, women are more concerned about health costs (recent and future) than men, as are people with lower education, income, and fair or poor health status.

Not surprisingly, uninsured people had the lowest health care consumer confidence in July 2009.

Those are the bottom-lines of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Care Consumer Confidence Index (RWJF Index), just published for July 2009. The Index measures how U.S. adults feel about their financial access to health care.

Among the findings of the Index survey were that:
  • 20.9% of Americans delayed care due to cost
  • 19.7% didn’t fill a prescription due to cost
  • 24.9% had trouble paying medical bills
  • 25.1% worried that they would lose health insurance coverage
  • 15.3% worried about losing their job
  • 51.9% worried about not being able to afford future care.
The Index combines indices on recent health cost barriers and future health cost concerns. Barriers include:
  • Delaying seeing a doctor when it was necessary, due to cost.
  • Skipping a recommended medical test, treatment, or follow-up due to cost.
  • Not filling a prescription due to cost.
  • Having difficulty paying for medical bills.
Future cost concerns involve worries about: losing health coverage; not being able to afford treatment for serious illnesses, routine health services, or prescription drugs; and, going bankrupt.

Data for this Index comes from the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, a monthly survey representative of all U.S. households (excluding Hawaii and Alaska). More details on the survey are available through the State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: There’s hard, quantitative evidence supporting Americans’ worries about paying for health care in the future. The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update was published this week (updated from the June 2009 forecast, which I wrote about here). The long-term budget outlook, discussed on page 26 of the document, says, “Spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will have to be controlled to achieve a sustainable fiscal situation in future decades….Spending for these programs is expected to rise rapidly over the next 10 years, outstripping the growth of GDP.”

One of the last questions in the RWJF survey was, “How important is it that Obama includes health reform in addressing the economic crisis?” 81.3% of Americans say it’s important. That’s more than a majority who believe it’s time to get on with real health reform that addresses health care in the context of the larger economy.

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