CONSUMER HEALTH: Most People Content with Health Plans
Most Americans are generally content with their health plans, despite having to deal with "some headaches," according to a report released yesterday, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Conducted by Consumer Reports and the Kaiser Family Foundation, the survey of 2,500 insured participants under age 65 found that nearly half of all respondents had some problem with their health plan during the past year. However, 64% of respondents gave their health plans an "A" or "B" grade (Powell, 6/8). Nearly 90% rated their plans as "average or better," while only 7% described their plans as "poor" or "failing" (Gullo, AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/7). Of consumers who reported complaints, most were minor, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those complaints included delays or denials of coverage (32%) and difficulty seeing a physician (27%). Twenty-three percent cited problems with billing and 14% reported difficulties with communication or customer service (KFF release, 6/7). About 66% of those reporting insurance problems said they "suffered financial consequences, lost time or saw their health decline as a result." Women and those with chronic ailments were most likely to report problems with their insurer. Further, 40% of respondents did not know whether they could appeal an insurer's decision to the state or an independent expert. The findings of this report will be published in next month's issue of Consumer Reports (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/8). The study has a two percentage point margin of error (McMillan, Contra Costa Times, 6/8).
Heard on the Hill?
One health care insider said the results should send a sign to state and federal lawmakers. Larry Levitt, director of the Changing Health Care Marketplace Project for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "What this survey clearly shows is that people are in the dark about what rights they already have, even as Congress debates giving people new rights to resolve problems with their health plans" (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/8). He added, "Policymakers need to understand that even the most comprehensive patient bill of rights won't do anything unless we help consumers navigate the system. People are really just very confused" (Contra Costa Times, 6/8).