Americans Pleased With Health Care Quality, Unhappy With Costs

October 18, 2005 ( - Fifty seven percent of Americans are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of health care they receive, according to the 2005 Health Confidence Survey released today by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) and Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

According to an EBRI news release on the survey, only 28% of Americans were satisfied with the cost of health care coverage. Only 21% were satisfied with the cost of health care services not covered by insurance.

The dollar amount contributed toward their health insurance premiums has increased for 55% of respondents, according to the release. Fifty one percent reported that the amount paid for prescription drugs has increased, and 48% said the amount they pay for doctor visits has increased.

Increased health care costs are having mixed effects on Americans’ behavior, according to the survey. On the positive side, 79% said they now choose generic drugs and 71% say they take better care of themselves. However, 21% reported not taking prescription medications due to cost, and about 40% said they delayed doctor visits due to costs.

In addition, 45% reported reducing their savings to have enough for health care. Thirty four percent of respondents said they have difficulty paying bills and 24% said they had difficulty paying for food, health, and housing because of the cost of health care.

Cost wasn’t a factor in judging quality, though. According to the survey, factors Americans consider important when judging health care include:

  • Skill, experience, and training of their doctors (97%)
  • Their doctor’s communication skills and willingness to listen (90%)
  • Timeliness of getting care (89%)

Only 63% said that information about the cost of alternative doctors, hospitals, or treatments was the most important factor in judging the quality of the care they received.

The survey found considerable differences in responses between lower income and higher income Americans. Nine percent of respondents with incomes below $35,000 described the health care system as excellent or very good, while 23% of those with incomes above $75,000 described it so.

Seventy-six percent of the lower income group reported they were covered by health insurance, compared to 99% of those in the higher income group. In the lower income group, 50% said they were extremely or very satisfied with their current health insurance plan, while 64% in the high income group were extremely or very satisfied.

As far as behaviors,49% of lower income Americans said they delayed going to a doctor because of health care cost increases compared with 29% of those with higher incomes. And 33% of those in the low income group said they did not take a prescribed medication due to cost, compared with 14% in the high income group.

The 2005 Health Confidence Survey was conductged via by phone interviews with 1,003 individuals age 21 and older. The findings can be read here .