Survey: Most Want Health Care Overhaul

Half of middle- and lower-income Americans have serious problems paying their medical bills, and more than three-fourths say the system is in need of a major overhaul, according to a new survey.

The results show Americans are growing increasingly concerned about the affordability of health care and want better coordination and improved access to information and care.

"Rather than thinking more care is better care, patients are quite perceptive about wasteful care," says researcher Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of The Commonwealth Fund, in a news release.

The telephone survey was conducted in June by Harris Interactive for the Commonwealth Fund's Commission on a High Performance Health System. The survey had a national sample of 1,023 adults.

One in four adults said their physician had recommended unnecessary care or treatment, and one in six reported their doctor repeated tests already done.

Overall, the survey showed 42 percent of Americans reported an instance of receiving inefficient, poorly coordinated, or unsafe health care in the past two years.

Problems included having a test ordered that had been done already, having unnecessary care or treatment recommended, not having important medical information shared with another doctor or nurse, or experiencing a medical, surgical, medication, or lab error.

Nearly two of five adults reported serious problems paying for their own or their family's health care, and a similar number reported problems paying for insurance. About one in five said these affordability problems were "very serious."

Affordability Concerns

The results also show health care affordability concerns are moving up the income ladder.

  • Half of middle-income ($35,000 to less than $50,000 per year) and lower-income (less than $35,000 per year) adults report somewhat serious or very serious problems paying for medical bills and health insurance.
  • A third of adults with higher annual incomes, between $50,000 and $75,000, report serious problems paying for health care.
  • One-fifth of those with incomes of more $75,000 per year report serious medical bill problems in the last two years.

    Support For Better Health Care Coordination

    More than three-quarters of those surveyed said the U.S. health care system is in need of fundamental change or complete rebuilding.

    There was also strong support for efforts to improve the coordination and efficiency of health care and medical information, with more than nine in 10 believing it is important to have one place or doctor responsible for providing and coordinating all their medical care.

    The results also showed:

  • More than nine in 10 Americans think computerized medical records would be an effective way to improve health care quality.
  • Four of five adults believe the quality of health care would improve if doctors practiced in a group rather than alone.
  • Nearly nine of 10 say wider use of reminders for preventive care would improve the quality of health care.
  • About two of five adults said they had experienced serious problems getting timely appointments to see their doctors.

    SOURCES: Schoen, C. "Public Views on Shaping the Future of the U.S. Health Care System," Aug. 17, 2006. News release, The Commonwealth Fund.

    By Jennifer Warner
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
    © 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved