May 21, 2012
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

POLL: MANY SICK AMERICANS EXPERIENCE SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL
PROBLEMS, CONCERNS ABOUT QUALITY OF AND ACCESS TO CARE

NPR NEWS SERIES "SICK IN AMERICA," AIRING THIS WEEK,
BASED ON POLL FROM NPR, THE ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION
AND THE HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH

Many Americans who have experienced a serious illness or injury within the past year are concerned about the financial costs of medical care, and the quality of and access to that care, according to a new poll out today from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. Results of the poll, one of the first of its kind, reveal that three out of four sick Americans say that cost is a very serious problem, and half label quality of care as very serious problem.

These findings provide the basis for NPR's "Sick in America," a series looking at the serious issues facing the ill in this country, beginning today and airing all week on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In the series, NPR correspondents from around the country take measure of what it's like to be sick in America, from deteriorating insurance coverage, to an increasingly fragmented health system, to a nursing shortage and the quality of hospital care.

The poll surveyed both the general public and those with a serious illness, medical condition, injury or disability. It was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Complete results are at NPR.org, where all reports in the series will be available. Among the key findings:
A large majority of the general public (87%) thinks the cost of care is a serious problem for the country. In addition, about two-thirds of the general public (65%) believes the cost of care has gotten worse over the last five years.

More than 40 percent of sick American say that the cost of their medical care over the last 12 months has caused a "very serious" (20%) or "somewhat serious" (23%) problem for their or their family's finances.

High costs affected access to care. One in six sick Americans say that there was a time in the past 12 months when they could not get the medical care they needed. Of that group, 52% report that it was because they could not afford the needed care, and 24% say it was because their insurers would not pay for it.

Interestingly, 78 percent of both the recently sick and the non-sick said that not being able to afford the tests or drugs they need was a major reason for the problems in quality of care.

Half of those who've been hospitalized overnight during the past 12 months (51%) said they were very satisfied with the quality of care they received.

"Sick in America" is being reported by NPR's Science Desk, with NPR correspondents Richard Knox, Patti Neighmond, Julie Rovner and Rob Stein, and reporter Sarah Varney of member station KQED.

The poll is part of an ongoing series of surveys on health conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.