The availability and cost of health care are the biggest concern for most Americans, a new Gallup poll has found.
Fifty-five percent of respondents told Gallup the cost of health care was their top concern, according to results published on March 23.
Gallup surveyed 1,041 randomly selected adults aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C., via landline and cell phone between March 1 and 8, with a reported margin of error of ± 4 percentage points.
‘Prices Are Climbing’
Michael Steele, a professor of economics at Hillsdale College and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says people’s growing concern about health care costs is understandable.
“The average price of a silver-level health policy on the [Affordable Care Act] exchanges is up about 33 percent this year,” Steele says. “While the majority of purchasers are lower-income and receive subsidies that largely shield them from the effects of the increases, many do not receive subsidies, nor do people who purchase individual insurance outside of the exchanges. In general, health insurance prices are climbing.”
Says Government Is Cause
Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, says government interference is responsible for the cost increases that are worrying people.
“Everything government has done in health care increases health care prices,” Cannon said. “Federal and state governments have eliminated almost any constraint on health care consumption or prices, which has made health care increasingly unaffordable.”
Blurring the distinction between health care and health insurance has also contributed to the problem, Steele says.
“Health care policies aren’t really insurance against risk, but plans that separate paying for a service from receiving it,” Steele says. “A consumer—the patient—and her or his provider decide what diagnostics and treatments to undertake. The insurer then pays the bill. It leads to overuse of health care, prescription of unnecessary diagnostic procedures, and generally raises demand and prices.”
Recommends Consumer Control
Increasing people’s power over their health care spending will help reduce costs and improve the quality of care, Cannon says.
“When consumers control the money, they will put downward pressure on prices in a way they have no incentive to do now, because when they control the money, they will personally benefit from the savings,” Cannon said. “Health care prices will fall dramatically, making this the most important thing we can do to bring health care within the reach of the poor and vulnerable.
“By the same token, giving consumers control of that money would dramatically increase health care quality, because again consumers would be far more exacting when spending their own money than when spending the government’s money or their employer’s money,” Cannon said.