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Poll: MA Residents Perceive Healthcare Costs to be Less Burdensome; Few Consumers Access New Healthcare Data Sources

Jun. 18, 2014 | Press Release

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An annual spring healthcare poll released today by Mass Insight Survey Research Group finds that Massachusetts residents are feeling less burdened by healthcare costs compared to last year when health plans were initially launching programs for cost and quality transparency.

Since 2004, The Mass Insight Healthcare Affordability Index has tracked how much of a cost burden residents feel from premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs, and deductibles. Results are calculated into a single Index score, which measures the level of affordability and burden people feel toward their healthcare. Results from the spring 2014 poll show a significant decrease to 52 points after last year’s highest score ever recorded on the Index, meaning that residents are having less of a struggle today than a year ago in coping with costs associated with paying for healthcare.

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(NOTE: A higher score indicates less affordability and a greater financial burden on respondents)

“While the affordability index is rising to near pre-recession levels, it may be the result of better economic situations at home or the actual cost-reduction efforts being implemented across the health care industry,” said William H. Guenther, CEO and Founder of Mass Insight. “Health care leaders are reducing the burden, for example, by increasing care at lower cost settings and also focusing on prevention efforts in addition to providing the cost and quality transparency tools. To be most effective, we need to make sure the public knows about them, knows where to access them, and knows how to use them.”

In 2012, Massachusetts passed major healthcare cost, quality, and transparency reform legislation that required health plans to maintain toll free numbers and websites giving consumers access to provider-specific estimates of cost-sharing for procedures and admissions. These tools give consumers detailed price information reflective of actual out-of-pocket expenses. Now that the tools are available, the Mass Insight/ODC poll shows that while most consumers agree that it’s important to have cost and quality information ahead of time, a majority were not aware of sources through which to obtain the information

• A majority of residents supports both state and federal health care legislation including a solid majority supporting the Massachusetts Health Reform Law (71%), with far less—although still majority—supporting the federal Affordable Care Act (57%). Support for the federal ACA, or ‘ObamaCare’ was down six percent from 2013 (63% supported), which could in part be attributed to the struggles of the national connector website.

• More than eight in 10 of those polled felt they did not have enough information that allowed them to compare the cost and quality of a medical procedure across different doctors and hospitals despite the fact that 66 percent of consumers did consult with their provider or insurance company about cost. However, 87 percent said it was important that they had that information. Consumers still do not understand the accessibility of available data on the cost of medical procedures (required through Massachusetts Chapter 224, passed in 2012), despite believing strongly that having advance information on health care costs is important.

• More than six in 10 people said they were not aware of new sources of information for cost and quality data, and nearly 75 percent did not know that insurance companies, hospitals and physicians are required to provide cost information within two days of a consumer request. There is a lack of awareness among consumers about how, where – and even if – they can access data sources on the cost and quality of health care options.

• More than 90 percent of consumers said quality of care is more important than anything else, including price, when making health care decisions. In contrast, 55 percent of consumers said that cost was a factor in their health care choices. But for consumers who had a medical procedure in the last year, more than half paid a co-pay of less than $100.¬

“Now that various transparency tools are becoming more available to people, it is critical to build public awareness around them.” said Richard C. Lord, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a sponsor of the poll. “To support cost containment and to help our healthcare system operate efficiently, our employees must become educated consumers to make better-informed decisions about their healthcare.”

 

Methodology
Poll conducted for Mass Insight by Opinion Dynamics Corporation. This survey was conducted among 450 Massachusetts residents. Residents were contacted by telephone using a mixture of random-digit-dial (RDD) and cell phone sample from April 30-May 4, 2014. The margin of error on the full, 450-member sample is ± 4.6% at the mid-range of the 95% confidence interval.

Mass Insight Healthcare Affordability Index
The Mass Insight Healthcare Affordability Index is calculated by assessing positive and negative ratings on each of four cost-related health care measures—specifically, the cost burden people feel on premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs and deductibles. These calculations result in a single Index score, which measures the level of affordability people feel toward their health care. A rise in the Index score signifies a lesser sense of affordability, a drop in the Index score reflects a greater sense of affordability.

 

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