Two separate studies reveal that consumers' confidence in their ability to access and pay for healthcare is dropping. In one study from Thomson Reuters, consumer confidence appeared to slide from the beginning of the year, while uninsured medical expenses appeared to be a pressing financial concern, according to a survey conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
With Thomson Reuters' Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index, confidence dropped three points from a baseline index of 100 in December 2009 to 97 in March of this year. The index has two parts: a retrospective component that gauges respondents' experiences during the past three months, and a prospective component that gauges their expectations for the coming three months.
In February, when the index dipped to 98, a "statistically significant number" of people reported that they had delayed filling or failed to fill a prescription in the past three months. These individuals said they expected to delay or cancel a diagnostic test in the next three months.
In March, an increasing number of people said they lost or reduced their health insurance coverage in the past three months. At the same time, more people said they expected to delay or cancel an elective surgery, diagnostic test, physician visits, or therapy in the next three months.
"Strikingly, Americans expect the situation to worsen significantly in the next three months," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters.
In the AICPA survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, uninsured medical expenses (at 11%) closely fell behind retirement (12%) among a list of top 15 financial concerns among Americans. The concern about uninsured medical expenses rose from 6% in 2008 and 8% in 2009.
The vast majority of Americans (86%) reported having some form of health insurance, AICPA said. However, 58% of those with coverage have seen their premiums go up in the past year; about half of the insured said their premiums have increased up to 10%, while a quarter said their premiums went up between 11% to 20%. Seventeen percent said their premiums have increased more than 21%.
For the uninsured, the most common reason stated of why someone didn't have health insurance was that it was unaffordable (47%). Much smaller percentages indicate their employer doesn't provide health insurance (17%) or that they are currently unemployed (16%).