Adults support major changes to US healthcare system amid rising costs, survey finds

Hailey Mensik | November 4, 2021

Dive Brief:
If no changes are made to the current healthcare system in the U.S., it’s likely adults and their families will struggle more with access and affordability of care in the future, a majority of respondents to a recent survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said.

Those surveyed showed the widest support for policy shakeups in the pharmaceutical industry, including putting limits on what drug companies can charge for medications and preventing drug companies from blocking cheaper, generic drugs from being sold in the U.S.

Limiting what both hospitals and doctors can charge for services also received wide support, among 85% and 81% of respondents, respectively.

Dive Insight:
Healthcare costs are a persistent issue for U.S. consumers and can put needed services out of reach for many patients and their families. That’s especially true for patients with lower incomes, who are disproportionately people of color.

Accordingly, American adults have an appetite for reforming the current system, namely by lowering costs through policy changes. While decades of aggressive lobbying from pharmaceutical and hospital groups make any significant changes unlikely, the RWJF survey shows wide support from consumers on a number of key healthcare issues.

To be sure, some measures including a ban on surprise medical bills and another requiring hospitals to make the price of their services public, are recent efforts intended to lower healthcare costs.

At the same time, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan could extend Medicaid expansion, Medicare coverage and Affordable Care Act subsidies to help people pay for coverage. It could also include a drug pricing proposal.

Respondents did not put the blame for rising costs solely on hospitals and drug companies, according to the survey of 2,555 adults nationwide taken from June 25 to July 12.

Most actually blamed health insurance companies (71%), and 80% of respondents said they supported eliminating insurance deductibles and copayments.

Surprise bills, health insurance deductibles and bills received after care were cited as the most frustrating healthcare costs overall.

At the same time, 80% of respondents, including 61% of those identifying as Republicans, said it’s the government’s responsibility to make healthcare more affordable for consumers.

Sentiments varied though depending on the type of health coverage respondents had.

Those enrolled in Medicare said they had the most positive experiences with accessing care and the fewest concerns around costs. Those currently enrolled in marketplace plans reported facing the most healthcare sacrifices due to high costs (78%), followed by those who are uninsured (74%).

Source: Heathcare Dive