The nation appears to be shifting away from the traditional model of
health care, in which doctors have most of the decisionmaking authority.
According to a newly released study, 9 out of 10 people want to have a
say in important decisions regarding their health care. One-third would
like to make a shared decision with their doctor, 43 percent want to
make the final decision with some professional input, and 16 percent
prefer to be completely in charge of their medical decisions.
These results are part of the fall 2013 Altarum Institute Survey of
Consumer Health Care Opinions, the fifth in an ongoing series
of semiannual surveys conducted by Altarum's Center for Consumer Choice
in Health Care (CCCHC). The surveys collect information on consumer
beliefs and preferences about health care. Subjects include consumers'
preferred role in health care decisions, sources of information about
health, important factors in selecting providers, and other perceptions
about the quality and cost of health care.
One area where health care planning is lacking, however, is retirement.
According to the study, only 5 percent of people are certain that they
will have the recommended amount of savings needed to cover health
expenses after they retire, while more than 80 percent are either unsure
or unlikely to have enough money set aside for health care in
retirement. The survey also found that most consumers face financial
pressures and may be cuttig back on care as a result.
According to the study, when it comes to health care costs, "the
majority of consumers indicated that they would be comfortable
approaching their doctor about the cost of health care services. Four
out of five are either somewhat or very comfortable asking about price.
Despite this, fewer than half of consumers have actually asked about the
price of care."
"It's a positive sign that people are open to asking their doctors about
costs and involving themselves in their health care decisions," said
Wendy Lynch, director of CCCHC and the study's author. "But overall, the
study shows that people still have their head in the sand when it comes
to what they think they can control. They have more power than they
realize just by asking questions; now they just need to use it."
"Consumers still believe that problems in health care are the fault of
insurance companies or government and underestimate what they can do
themselves," added Dr. Lynch.
Dr. Lynch also mentioned that the size of a person's health insurance
deductible tends to plays a role in whether he or she asks questions
about the cost of care. Generally, those with higher deductibles are
much more likely to ask about the price of health care services before
visiting a health care provider.
The health care exchanges recently established under the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) were also
discussed in the study, although the survey took place in the midst of
the troubled HealthCare.gov website rollout. According to the study,
nearly three out of five people indicated that they will not use the
exchanges because they obtain health insurance from another source. Most
of the remaining consumers reported that they are undecided about
whether to participate in the exchanges or do not know anything about
For complete study results, please visit www.altarum.org/CCCHC.
Altarum Institute (www.altarum.org)
integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to
deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and
health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is
headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., with additional offices in the
Washington, DC, area; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.
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