By Lisa Zamosky
It seems that people who report being very satisfied with their health insurance coverage and medical treatment are, more often than not, very healthy people who haven’t faced serious illness. A recent poll jointly conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health seems to support that notion.
The report – “Sick in America” – points out that among the 27% of Americans who have a serious illness, medical condition, injury, or disability requiring a lot of medical care, the financial cost of health care is a major concern.
Financial Barriers to Medical Care
Americans face a host of problems when they seek care, including being turned away due to financial or insurance reasons or simply not being able to get needed medical care because they can’t afford it, the poll found. Most of those surveyed have health insurance.
Here are some of the sobering statistics cited in the report:
- 87% of the general public thinks the cost of medical care is a serious problem for the country
- About 65% believes the cost of care has gotten worse over the last five years
- 20% say the cost of their medical care caused “very serious” financial problems for their family
- 17% report that within the past 12 months they couldn’t get care they needed because of cost (52% because they couldn’t afford it, 24% because insurance wouldn’t pay for needed care)
- 11% say a doctor or hospital turned them away for financial or insurance reasons when they tried to get care
Although having insurance is no guarantee of financial security, it clearly makes it easier to get the medical care you need. According to the survey, 40% of uninsured sick people report a time during the past year when they needed care but couldn’t get it as opposed to only 10% who have insurance.
Quality Lags Too
The cost of health care in this country isn’t the only issue of concern to Americans. Among those surveyed, complaints about the quality of care they received were rampant too:
- About 13% believe they were given the wrong diagnosis, treatment, or test
- 26% say their condition was poorly managed
- 30% found there to be poor communication among the doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals involved in their care
- 72% say they want the interactions with their doctor to include discussions about more than their specific medical problems.
Being Sick in America: Your Story
It’s well worth listening to the audio of NPR reporters Richard Knox and Patti Neighmond sharing the results of this study, as well as the stories of real people and their experiences of being sick in America at NPR’s Shots Health Blog.
Then please share your thoughts and experiences of being sick in America with us below in the comments section.