Strong opinions on health reform but few facts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans have negative opinions about the U.S. healthcare system despite good personal experiences and they admit they are not especially well-informed, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

They are also afraid of healthcare reform and would rather stick with a flawed system than change to something new, the poll by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found.

People with private insurance are more worried about medical bills than people on Medicare or those using the military healthcare systems, the poll found.

“They are generally not happy with what they have but they are more comfortable with what is known than not known,” economist Paul Keckley, executive director of the center, said in a telephone interview.

What is known is precious little, by their own admission, said Keckley, whose team interviewed 4,000 people for the survey.

“In spite of all the (news) coverage healthcare gets, people seem to be pretty confident that they know enough to get by and that’s a little bit about their doctor and a little bit about their hospital and no more,” Keckley said.

In March, Congress passed a healthcare reform bill requiring almost all Americans to have health insurance and President Barack Obama signed it into law. The new law also aims to make insurance companies cover more people.

Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the bill and polls show mixed opinions among the public. Keckley said the survey showed people may have strong opinions, but they were not based on any good understanding of the law itself.


“The fear of the unknown is greater than the acceptance of the imperfect known,” Keckley said. “Consumers believe our system is not great but it may be better than the alternative, so maybe we better stick with what we have. That is a really complex set of beliefs.”

Some findings from the poll:

* 76 percent of the adults 18 and older surveyed graded the current U.S. healthcare system a C or below

* Half believe that 50 percent or more of healthcare dollars are wasted.

* Only 23 percent believe they understand how the health care system works.

* 57 percent said they were satisfied with their health plan and 75 percent of those who had visited a hospital recently said they were satisfied.

* A quarter of those surveyed admitted they did not know how much they pay for their own health insurance.

* 42 percent support requirements to carry health insurance, while 38 percent oppose the idea and the rest are undecided.

* 69 percent said a government-sponsored, Medicare-like plan for people under 65 would stimulate better competition among commercial plans.

* Most -- 87.5 percent -- describe themselves as being in “excellent” or “very good” health.

* But 54 percent have been diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

* 31 percent take one prescription drug, 22 percent take two prescription drugs a day and 47 percent take three or more prescription medicines daily.

Editing by Peter Cooney