Kaiser Survey

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new survey. It finds that people are having a hard time paying their medical bills. It doesn't mention that they are also having a hard time paying their bills for food, housing, transportation, education, or any of the other necessities of life. Once you get past the headlines, some interesting things crop up. For instance:

The number of people reporting problems in paying health care bills (22%) has actually dropped from last October (32%).

The care they are skipping is mostly non-essential. 35% are using home remedies or OTC drugs, 34% are skipping dental care or "regular checkups," 27% postponed getting a health care service they needed, and so on. In fact, people are less likely to do things they shouldn't do anyway, like going to a doctor when they have a cold or the stomach flu or having a yearly physical exam. 6% said they postponed an outpatient surgical procedure and 5% postponed an inpatient stay, but the survey doesn't mention if these were elective procedures.

The survey finds that "health care reform" is the public's fourth most important priority, after fixing the economy, reforming entitlements, and fighting terrorism. But people are divided on what they mean by "health care reform" with equal numbers saying either it means lowering costs or it means helping the uninsured.

Substantial majorities think "health care reform" should be accomplished without spending any new money or changing their own arrangements.

Comments (5)

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  1. Nancy says:

    Greg, glad we have you to interpret these surveys. I’m getting tired of the left liberal spin on everything we read.

  2. Stephen C. says:

    The unstated premise behind all these surveys is that health care consumption should never vary, even when everything else (including income) is varying.
    I can’t imagine any economic model that would conclude that invariant health care consumption is welfare maximizing.

    So the hidden premise is completely at odds with economic theory.

  3. Bart Ingles says:

    Substantial majorities think “health care reform” should be accomplished without spending any new money or changing their own arrangements.

    That’s in some sense consistent with the outcome of the last election. The McCain proposal was successfully spun as a threat to employment-related health benefits (partially justified), while item one of Obama’s position was that he would not touch health benefits that people wanted to keep.

  4. Tom H. says:

    Bart, that’s only because McCain was totally ineffective as a spokesman on health care. Truth is, the Obama plan is much more threatening to the employer-based system than anything McCain talked about.

    Obama’s “exchange,” will be set up outside the place of work. It will tempt employers to drop their coverage, pay a pay-or-play tax, and wash their hands of the whole matter.

  5. Bart Ingles says:

    Tom, I hope you didn’t misunderstand me. I never said I believed a word of Obama’s message, merely that he gave special prominence to the idea of “allowing you to keep what you have.” Obviously people bought it.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe McCain’s ineffectiveness was the only reason his plan didn’t catch on. The plan itself had serious flaws.

    First, it would have undermined existing employer benefits, not so much because it removed the tax differential between employer- and non-employer coverage, but because it removed the differential between group- and non-group insurance. Employers may still have had incentive to provide some sort of benefit “to retain good employees,” but would be forced to move away from group coverage as low-cost employees bailed out of the groups. I understand that many here believe that group coverage is bad and underwriting is good, but do you honestly think McCain would have been more successful promoting his plan on that basis?

    Second, to replace the collapsing group plans, McCain’s proposal included the “Guaranteed Access Plan” (GAP) that would have covered people who were unable to obtain underwritten insurance. The GAP itself was only partially defined, and appeared to rely on a fair amount of state legislation and cooperation between state and federal agencies, none of which could be assured in advance. And since the bulk of the existing employer tax exclusion is really an indirect subsidy for higher-cost group plan members, the GAP would have to cost somewhere in the same ballpark as the employer exclusion.

    Third, since the tax credit would also cost roughly the same as the current exclusion, it seems to me that government would end up paying twice–first for the GAP and then for the tax credit. There may not be a net difference to the average consumer, but roughly twice as much money would have to pass through government hands.

    So, no, I don’t believe it was just bad salesmanship.