Even the Insured Report Problems Paying Medical Bills

October 16, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, ABC News and USA Today finds that even those with medical insurance report having a problem paying medical bills.

According to the study report, of those with insurance, 60% are at least somewhat worried about being able to pay the cost of their health insurance over the next few years. Additionally, of the 25% of respondents who reported having a problem paying medical bills in the last year, 69% had insurance coverage.

The study found that most people are satisfied with their health insurance coverage, with 88% saying their coverage is excellent or good and 89% saying they are satisfied with the quality of medical care they receive. However, 19% said they are very dissatisfied and 22% said they are somewhat dissatisfied with their health care costs.

For the uninsured respondents, cost (54%) was the main reason cited for their lack of health care coverage, the report said.

Half of those surveyed blamed excessive profits for drug and insurance companies as the reason for rising health care costs. Other reasons cited included fraud and waste in the health care system (37%), too many medical malpractice lawsuits (37%), and high profits by doctors and hospitals (36%). The aging of the population (23%) ranked near the bottom of perceived reasons for rising health care costs.

According to the report, overall, 56% of respondents said they would prefer a universal health care system to our current system. However, when told such a system may mean less choice of doctors, waiting lists, increased costs to individuals, or more limited coverage of medical treatments, support for universal coverage dropped to roughly a third of the public or less.

Eighty-six percent of respondents said the government should offer tax breaks to businesses that offer health insurance to their employees. Eighty percent said it should offer tax credits for poorer Americans to buy health insurance, and just as many said it should expand programs for the poor like Medicaid or require businesses to cover all full-time employees.

While respondents claimed letting individuals shop around for health care would be more effective at controlling costs (79%) than the current system of employer-based coverage (67%) or government regulation of health care costs (62%), most were not interested in a broadly defined plan that would cover major medical problems but leave consumers to handle the rest of their medical needs out of a pool of money over which they have charge. Two-thirds (66%) said they would oppose such a plan.

The study report is here .