Kaiser Foundation study finds more people concerned about healthcare costs, coverage


MENLO PARK, Calif. With two weeks remaining until Election Day, more people are reporting problems with healthcare bills, and paying for health care retains a solid hold on the public’s list of their top economic concerns, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s final election 2008 tracking poll, released Tuesday.

About one in three Americans now report their family has had problems paying medical bills in the past year, up from about a quarter saying the same two years ago. Almost one in five (18 percent) of Americans report household problems with medical bills amounting to more than $1,000 in the past year. 

Nearly half (47 percent) of the public reports someone in their family skipping pills, postponing  or cutting back on medical care they said they needed in the past year due to the cost of care.  For example, just over one-third say they or a family member put off or postponed needed care and three in ten say they skipped a recommended test or treatment—increases of seven percentage points from last April’s tracking poll which asks the same question.

“Health care is now every bit as much an economic issue for the American people as job insecurity, mortgage payments and credit card debt,” said Kaiser president and chief executive officer Drew Altman.

In the voters’ minds the financial meltdown has not displaced the need for health reform, the poll found.  Nearly twice as many voters say that in the face of the economic challenges “it is more important than ever to take on health reform” (62 percent) than say “we cannot take on health reform right now” (34 percent).  However, a partisan gap remains on this question with majorities of Democratic (75 percent) and independent (61 percent) voters agreeing that health care reform is more important than ever, while over half (54 percent) of Republicans believe it should not be addressed right now.

Making health care and health insurance more affordable is the most important health care issue cited by half of all voters.

The poll is a nationally representative random sample of 1,217 adults ages 18 and older, including 1,115 adults who say they are registered to vote, who were interviewed by telephone between Oct. 8 and 13, 2008.

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