Americans give health care system a failing grade: AP-NORC poll
When Emmanuel Obeng-Dankwa worries about paying the rent on his apartment in New York, he sometimes refrains from refilling his blood pressure medication.
“If there’s no money, I’d rather skip the meds than be homeless,” said Obeng-Dankwa, a 58-year-old security guard.
He is among a majority of adults in the United States who say health care is not well managed in the country, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The poll finds that public satisfaction with the US healthcare system is remarkably low, with less than half of Americans saying it is generally well run. Only 12% say it is extremely or very well managed. Americans have similar views on health care for seniors.
Overall, the public gives even lower marks to the way prescription drug costs, the quality of care in nursing homes and mental health care are handled, with only 6% or less saying that these health services are very well provided in the country.
“Navigating the US healthcare system is extremely frustrating,” said A. Mark Fendrick, director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan. “The COVID pandemic has only made things worse.”
More than two years into the pandemic, healthcare worker burnout and staffing shortages are plaguing hospitals across the country. And Americans are still struggling to get in-person medical care after health centers introduced restrictions as COVID-19 killed and sickened millions across the country, Fendrick said.
In fact, the poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans, nearly 8 in 10, say they are at least moderately concerned about access to quality health care when they need it.
Black and Hispanic adults in particular are extremely worried about access to health care, with nearly 6 in 10 saying they are very or extremely concerned about getting good care. Less than half of white adults, 44%, expressed the same level of worry.
Racial disparities have long troubled the American healthcare system. They have been very clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, with blacks and Hispanics dying disproportionately from the virus. Black and Hispanic men also account for a disproportionately high rate of recent monkeypox infections.
Fifty-three percent of women said they were extremely or very concerned about getting quality care, compared to 42% of men.
While Americans are united in their dissatisfaction with the health care system, this accord dissolves when it comes to solutions to fix it.
About two-thirds of adults believe it’s the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have health care coverage, with adults ages 18-49 more likely than those over 50 years of being of this opinion. The percentage of people who think healthcare coverage is a government responsibility has increased in recent years, from 57% in 2019 to 62% in 2017.
Yet there is no consensus on how this coverage might be provided.
About 4 in 10 Americans say they support a single-payer health care system that would require Americans to get their health insurance through a government plan. More, 58%, say they favor a government health insurance plan that anyone can buy.
There is also broad support for policies that would help Americans with the costs of long-term care, including a government-administered insurance plan similar to Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance for people over 65. years or more.
Retired nurse Pennie Wright, of Camden, Tennessee, doesn’t like the idea of a government-run healthcare system.
After switching to Medicare this year, she was surprised to leave her annual wellness visit, once fully covered by her private insurance plan, with a $200 bill.
She prefers the flexibility she had on her private insurance plan.
“I feel like we have the best healthcare system in the world, we have a choice of where we want to go,” Wright said.
A majority of Americans, about two-thirds, were happy to see the government step in to provide free COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatment. About 2 in 10 were neutral about the government’s response.
Government funding for free COVID-19 tests dried up earlier this month. And while the White House says the latest batch of recommended COVID-19 boosters will be free for anyone who wants one, it doesn’t have the cash on hand to buy future rounds of boosters for every American.
Eighty percent say they support the federal government’s negotiation of lower drug prices. President Joe Biden signed a landmark bill this summer allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. The move is expected to save taxpayers up to $100 billion over the next decade.
“Medication costs need to be kept low, at a minimum so that everyone can afford them,” said Obeng-Dankwa, the Bronx tenant who struggles to pay for his medications. “Those who are poor should be able to get all the necessary health they need, in the same way as someone who also has the money to pay for it.”
AP polling reporter Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.
The survey of 1,505 adults was conducted from July 28 to August 28. 1 using a sample drawn from NORC’s AmeriSpeak Probability Panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Track AP’s health care cost coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/health-care-costs.
This story was originally published September 12, 2022 12:57 a.m.