Survey: Jerseyans want (small, targeted) fixes to health care system

Research by Consumers for Quality Care shows cost of care rising more than income — and ability to pay bills is concern

Approximately three out of four New Jerseyans feel their health care costs are rising faster than their income — and are struggling because of it, according to a recent poll.

And, while that may be no surprise, this might be: Most only want legislators to fix the current system — not eliminate it — and they urge them to proceed with caution.

The results come from a survey by Consumers for Quality Care, a coalition of advocates and former policymakers who say they are working to provide a voice for patients in the health care debate. The survey was conducted by ALG Research and Bully Pulpit Interactive.

“The rising cost of health care is a major concern for three-quarters of New Jersey voters,” said Danny Franklin, a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive.

He said residents want sensible solutions.

“As New Jersey families rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, they are looking for solutions that lower the cost of care,” he said. “Voters want to see their elected officials prioritize lowering health care costs.”

Here are other key findings from a poll of 601 registered voters July 19-25:

  • 71% of respondents said the cost of health care is rising faster than their income. Among respondents who struggle financially, this number rises to 80%;
  • 78% of respondents agreed the amount they pay for health care seems to be going up every year;
  • 52% of respondents agreed that, at some point in their life, they have struggled to pay a medical bill, even while having health insurance;
  • 72% of respondents were concerned they will receive a surprise medical bill that is thousands of dollars, while 71% are concerned they will be unable to afford a high deductible for care they need;
  • 66% of respondents were concerned they will need to delay seeking care due to high health care costs, with 60% noting concerns they will be unable to afford their monthly health care premiums.

Addressing the issue in health care affordability remained a priority to respondents. Voters are looking to Congress for a more targeted approach to fixing the current system, rather than completely transforming it.

Overall, 61% of respondents believed Congress should focus more on building upon the current system by making specific fixes, such as reducing out-of-pocket costs, compared with 26% who said Congress should fundamentally transform the health care system and 13% who were unsure. However, most also agreed that lawmakers should be cautious to make changes coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 71% agreeing with this approach.

As for specific solutions, 73% of respondents supported permitting non-physician health care practitioners to provide services currently administered by physicians. In addition, 58% supported preventing insurance companies from limiting coverage or increasing premiums or copays for COVID-19 survivors.

Donna Christensen, a founding board member of CQC and the first female physician elected to Congress, said the survey results are telling.

“This research confirms what many New Jerseyans have been feeling: The out-of-pocket costs for quality health care are too high,” she said. “With about 18% of Americans with medical debt in collections, it is no wonder why consumers are stressed about the cost of going to the hospital or seeing a doctor. Out-of-pocket costs shouldn’t be so high and unpredictable that they discourage people from seeking care, and insurance should act like insurance and be there for patients when they need it.”

In addition to health care cost concerns, the poll revealed that issues such as out-of-pocket costs including surprise bills, high deductibles and delaying care due to rising health care costs are top of mind with voters. The results show that voters want their elected officials to focus on driving these costs down, with respondents overwhelmingly stating they would like their leaders to work on driving down costs (54%) over improvement to quality (15%) and access (13%).