Survey: Americans Want Answers on Health Reform Impact

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 15, 2009

A new survey finds that Americans want healthcare reform—they just can't decide what kind.

The written survey by the Stanford Center on Longevity, which so far has been taken by more than 2,000 people, explains different healthcare coverage strategies, their advantages and disadvantages, and asks participants to give their opinions and gauge their support.

The reform options include: changing physician and hospital payment incentives; enhanced independent review of drugs, treatments and procedures; single-payer system; state Children's Health Insurance Plan and Medicaid expansion; government-mandated plan participation; universal health vouchers with regional oversight boards; and expansion of health savings accounts.

Most survey participants called healthcare reform a high priority, but they didn't form a consensus around any of the proposals. Instead, they expressed ambivalence about the pros and cons of each idea. None of the ideas was clearly rejected either.

SCL Director Laura Carstensen says the survey findings indicate that people are willing to engage in a substantive discussion about healthcare reform and want more information about the pros and cons of reform proposals.

"It is critical that leaders engage the public in an intelligent discussion about the options for change and what they mean both for individuals and for the system broadly," Carstensen says.

"The degree of conversation we've been having about the existing problems with the system must be mirrored with conversation about solutions to those problems," she says. "There is anxiety among the public about changes to their healthcare, which necessitates building public support for proposed changes to the system if they are to be successful."

The findings also show that politics are tied to voters' reactions to various healthcare proposals. Democrats, for example, are more apt to support the expansion of access to healthcare, while Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all share strong concerns about healthcare costs.

The survey also found that: while 62% of Americans feel the healthcare system works well for them, 68% believe it does not work well for most Americans; 58% of Americans are not satisfied with cost and affordability of healthcare, but 50% are satisfied with the quality.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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