Consumers may not have the knowledge necessary to easily break down and digest health care information, but most are willing to make significant sacrifices in order to limit costs or increase the quality of their care.
This information comes from a recently released 2016 FAIR Health-ORC Survey report covering the attitudes and behaviors of Americans regarding health insurance and related subjects. Conducted April 28-May 1, 2016 by ORC International’s Telephone CARAVAN® with support from the New York State Health Foundation, the survey provides insights gleaned from the responses of 1,006 adults ages 18 years old and up living in the United States.
The survey provides nuanced information indicating that consumers regard health-related issues as both challenging and complicated, far removed from other easily accessible consumer information. For instance, when asked how many hours a year they would spend, or have spent, researching various topics, consumers indicated that they would devote significantly more time towards researching a new house or apartment (63 hours), a vehicle (39.7 hours), a vacation (24.7 hours), or even medical symptoms, diagnosis, or treatments (29.7 hours) compared to researching their health or dental coverage (23.5 hours) or the choice of a doctor or dentist who would use that insurance to provide care (19.5 hours).
At the same time, the survey indicates that the high (and rising) cost of healthcare and health insurance would prompt many consumers to change their behaviors and accept inconvenience in order to limit costs.
For example, the report indicates while consumers clearly desire healthcare value, they may lack the requisite information to make decisions involving healthcare economics. Asked how far they would be willing to travel to see a healthcare provider outside their local area if they could save at least 50 percent of the cost of treatment for a serious health condition, 57 percent of respondents reported being willing to travel 50 miles or more. That total included 39 percent who would travel 100 miles or more. This trend held true across generations, as Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) were nearly as willing as millennials (ages 18 to 35) to make a trip of 50 miles or more to cut their bill in half.
This information comes at a time during which consumers are shouldering more and more of the responsibility and cost of their insurance and healthcare decisions due to ACA exchanges, high deductible health care plans, and the increasing prominence of HSA accounts. According to the survey, the complexity and high cost of insurance and healthcare prompted a majority of respondents (76%) to recommend that individuals undertake education on these subjects by their college years, a plurality of whom (41%) stated that such education should occur during or before high school.
Presently, however, health insurance basics are not widely taught either in high school or college, leaving many individuals to educate themselves, increasingly without employer-based plans to fall back on. As FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd stated, “survey results suggest that consumers have a strong appetite for health insurance information to help them navigate the dizzying landscape of healthcare benefits and healthcare choices.”