Survey finds Virginia consumers worried about affording health care
A survey of Virginia adults finds that more than half have had problems affording health care during the last year.
The Virginia Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey also found that 78% of its 1,100 respondents worry about affording health care in the future.
The survey results were presented on Tuesday by Lynn Quincy, director of the Healthcare Value Hub at Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting firm, at a meeting of the Virginia Center for Health Innovation’s board and leadership council in Richmond.
The survey was conducted March 12 to April 2.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents reported they had encountered recent health-care affordability problems.
The issues they cited by respondents included: being uninsured because of high premium costs (64%); delaying or forgoing care because of cost (46%); and struggling to pay medical bills (30%).
An overwhelming majority (91%) said they want access to information showing a “fair” price for specific procedures while 89% support requiring insurers to provide upfront cost estimates to consumers.
Other findings include:
• Health care exceeded other issues as the top priority policymakers should work on in the coming year (63%), with the economy/joblessness (39%) and taxes (37%) as next most important.
• The top three health-care priorities respondents want to see action on are addressing high costs (55%); preserving consumer protections (36%); and getting health insurance to those who cannot afford coverage (35%).
• High support for government-led change crosses party lines. The majority of respondents – regardless of political affiliation – indicated they supported government action to make it easier to switch insurance (89%); and requiring up-front patient cost estimates from healthcare providers (88%) and insurers (90%).
• Concerns about healthcare affordability varied by health planning region and income level. Individuals in the Southwest region reported the greatest rate (63%) of healthcare affordability burdens and lowest median income. By contrast, the Northern region reported the fewest affordability burdens (41%) and the highest median income.
• The data also show that one in three respondents with private health insurance received a surprise medical bill. Three-quarters of bill recipients made an effort to resolve the bill before paying it, but only one-third of surprise medical bills were resolved satisfactorily.
“These data confirm what we already knew anecdotally,” says Lynn Quincy, director of Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub. “Virginians experience healthcare affordability problems and surprise medical bills at an alarming rate. Virginia residents would benefit significantly from state actions to alleviate these unfair and burdensome healthcare affordability problems.”
Advocates agree that even with Medicaid expansion, healthcare affordability is still a top issue for all Virginians. The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) has advocated for improved healthcare access for Virginia consumers – especially low-income consumers – for decades. Jill Hanken, VPLC health attorney, says, “The ACA Marketplace and Virginia's new Medicaid expansion have helped over 600,000 Virginians get health insurance. But there are still many legitimate and urgent concerns about healthcare costs, access to services and medical debt. This survey offers important support for new initiatives in Virginia to, for example, address premium costs and balance billing.”
The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI) has produced research and analyses on health care issues affecting low- and moderate-income Virginians since being founded over a decade ago and was an early voice advocating for Medicaid expansion. TCI President and CEO Michael Cassidy noted that “the release of these survey results offer evidence that Virginia still has work to do in order to meet the health needs of all of those who live in the state. TCI is committed to continuing the work of identifying and advocating for policy solutions that advance equitable health access, affordability, and outcomes for Virginia families.”
“What is apparent to me from the CHESS findings is that Virginians are hungry for more information and tools to help them navigate the healthcare system to get the best care at the best value. They are also willing to take ownership of their health, with 60% agreeing that they could take better care of their personal health to help reduce affordability burdens,” says Beth Bortz, VCHI’s President and CEO. “Everyone has a role to play to reduce healthcare costs and improve value. Providing consumers and health providers with information on the value of certain health care services is at the core of VCHI’s Smarter Care Virginia project and our Health Value Dashboard reports. We were thrilled to partner with the Altarum Healthcare Value Hub as the CHESS complements our existing work and offers another piece to the value puzzle.”
The data briefs are available at: vahealthinnovation.org/virginia-chess and healthcarevaluehub.org/Virginia-2019-Health-Survey