Americans more confident on healthcare costs: poll

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:39am EDT

1 of 2. A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston, Texas, July 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fewer Americans are afraid that they will be unable to pay for healthcare services and fewer expect to postpone medical treatments due to costs, according to a Thomson Reuters survey published on Monday.

Researchers found a steady increase in people's confidence about their ability to pay for healthcare services -- it rose 12 percent between March and July this year.

The survey of 3,000 households showed, unsurprisingly, that people who made more money were more confident they could pay for medical care, and people who had insurance were far more confident about paying than those who lacked insurance.

"These findings are consistent with data we've been seeing for everything from hospital discharge trends to opinions about healthcare reform," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer for the Healthcare & Science business of Thomson Reuters.

"There is growing optimism among many healthcare consumers, but (there) also is a clear disparity in outlook between those with higher income levels who have insurance coverage and those who are uninsured. This gap needs to be an area of focus for healthcare professionals and policymakers," Pickens added in a statement.

Healthcare reform is the signature policy goal of President Barack Obama, and Congress is working on several bills, most concentrating on changes in the health insurance industry.

Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News, telephoned 3,000 people to ask whether they expected to have difficulty paying for healthcare services, delay or cancel a routine doctor's visit, diagnostic test, elective surgery, a visit for a minor illness or injury or therapy over the next three months.

"Consumers in the lowest income groups are approximately 20 percent less confident than average, while those in the highest income group are approximately 40 percent more confident than average," according to the report, published online here

"In July 2009 those consumers with college degrees or more education had confidence levels 25 percent greater than average, while those with high school education or less were approximately 10 percent less confident than average at the same point in time," it adds.

"Those with insurance have overall confidence levels approximately 10 percent higher than average, while those with no insurance have overall confidence levels more than 80 percent lower than average. Improvements in confidence occurred in both groups."

(Editing by Paul Simao)