Americans’ confidence in health care is up, according to Thomson Reuters’ latest Healthcare Indexes: Consumer Confidence. Overall, Thomson Reuters finds that healthcare confidence rose 12% between March and July 2009.

Americans’ confidence in their ability to pay for health care in the “next three months” increased by 18% in the four month period. Furthermore, more Americans believe they’ll be able to access necesary health services such as routine and urgent care in the next 3 months.

Healthcare confidence is highest amongst the population over 65, and lowest in the youngest age cohort. Health confidence increases with income and education, although significantly increased in the lowest education group according to Thomson Reuters.

Not surprisingly, the uninsured have a relatively high lack of confidence in their ability to pay for and access services.

Thomson Reuters’ data is drawn from the PULSE Healthcare Survey which was taken in four monthly waves from March through July 5, 2009.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Thomson Reuters survey results are diametrically opposed to last week’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Confidence Survey findings. I analyzed these on 28 August 2009 in a post titled, Americans’ worries about paying for future health care costs are rising.

Aside from the successful Cash for Clunkers program, consumer spending is stagnant. “Consumers just don’t have the financial firepower to go out and spend more,” Moody’s Economy.com says. Spending rose in July due to rush auto spending, but the LA Times pointed out this weekend that consumer sentiment slipped.

What could lead to the vast difference in the polls’ findings? The RWJF Index is a more complex measure than the Thomson Reuters’ Index. RWJF’s Future Health Cost Concerns Index would be the analog to the TR statistic as RWJF measures Americans’ concerns about health costs in “the near future” (see pages 2 and 3 of the August 2009 RWJF report for additional details on the methodology).

Note the nuances in the studies regarding the health confidence of seniors. In the Thomson Reuters’ study, seniors were the most positive about their ability to access and pay for health care in the short-term. In the RWJF study, seniors’ confidence, while higher than in other age groups, was the quickest to drop in July.

I look forward to reviewing both of these surveys’ next waves of research in September once the results of the acrimonious and media-covered town halls have absorbed into the mainstream citizen mentality — along with the reverberations of the death of Senator Kennedy, whose health policy legacy may also resonate with the mainstream American over the next weeks.

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