41% of Americans voice confidence in health care system

A Gallup Poll finds opinions are shaped more by politics and economics than quality of care.

By — Posted July 12, 2012

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The general population has more faith in the health system than it did a year ago, according to a Gallup Poll about confidence in U.S. institutions released June 28.

Forty-one percent of the 1,004 adults surveyed from June 7-10 said they felt a great deal or a lot of confidence in the health system (link).

The percentage was up slightly from the 39% who felt that way in 2011 and the 40% who were confident about health care in 2010. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.In 2009, before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, only 36% of Americans had confidence in the health system. Researchers said it’s unclear what impact the June 28 U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold most of the ACA will have on consumer confidence in health care.

Gallup says the latest survey is unlikely an indication of how people feel about the quality of care they receive. The opinions probably have more to do with swings in the financial and political climate.

“This does not reflect Americans’ view of their doctors,” said Frank Newport, PhD, Gallup’s editor-in-chief. “This is more likely a reflection of what they are hearing and seeing in the news.”

A Gallup survey released Nov. 17, 2011, found that 82% of people rated the health care they received as good or excellent. The figure has changed little during the past decade.

Gallup started to include the health system as part of its annual survey on institutional confidence in 1993, when debate ignited over health system reform proposed by President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. That year, 34% of respondents expressed confidence in the health system.

Consumer confidence in the system reached its lowest point in 2007, at 31%, when the recession was beginning.

Several surveys, however, have found unease among patients and physicians about the ACA. A Gallup survey of 1,012 adults in conjunction with USA Today released June 29 found 46% agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision, but another 46% disagreed. The remainder were undecided.

A survey of 500 physicians younger than 40 released in March by The Physicians Foundation found 23% were highly or somewhat positive about the law. Twenty-nine percent were neutral, and 49% were highly or somewhat negative.

When the foundation asked about the future of the U.S. health system, 22% of the young doctors expressed at least some optimism, but 57% were pessimistic. Twenty-one percent were neutral.

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How confident is the public about health care?

The percentage of people who feel good about the U.S. health system is increasing. Historically, confidence declines during times of economic trouble. Researchers say it is too soon to know how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act will affect confidence in the medical system.

Percentage of people who had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the medical system:

1993: 34%

1994: 36%

1995: 41%

1996: 42%

1997: 38%

1998: 40%

1999: 40%

2000: 40%

2001: 40%

2002: 38%

2003: 44%

2004: 44%

2005: 42%

2006: 38%

2007: 31%

2008: 35%

2009: 36%

2010: 40%

2011: 39%

2012: 41%

Note: The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.Source: “Confidence in Institutions” Gallup survey, June 28 (link)

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