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Being Sick in America

| May 23, 2012

In the lull between the Supreme Court arguments over the federal health overhaul law and the decision expected in June, we thought we’d ask Americans who actually use the health system quite a bit how they view the quality of care and its cost.

Most surveys don’t break it down this way.

When the results came back, we found that people who have a serious medical condition or who’ve been in the hospital in the past year tended to have more concerns about costs and quality than people who aren’t sick. No big surprise there.

But what was notable: 3 of 4 people who were sick said cost is a very serious problem, and half said quality is a veryserious problem.

Nearly half of those with recent serious illness say they felt burdened by what they had to pay out of their own pocket for care.

The recently ill are more likely to say the cost and quality of care have worsened over the past five years, compared to people who weren’t sick.

Among people who’ve recently required a lot of care, significant proportions say their treatment was poorly managed, with nearly a third complaining of poor communication among their caregivers. One in eight believe they got the wrong diagnosis, treatment or test.

Those findings led us to investigate the problems people are having, both in our poll and in a series of stories on the radio and the Web we’re calling “Sick in America.”

The poll, a joint venture of NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of very few focusing on people who’ve actually been seriously ill, injured or hospitalized in the past year.

“This poll listens to the voices of the sick,” says Robert Blendon of Harvard. “That provides a good barometer of what’s happening in health care in America.”

The poll randomly surveyed 1,508 adults across the nation. A little more than a quarter of them had a serious illness, injury or disability requiring “a lot of medical care,” or overnight hospitalization within the past 12 months.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s a summary of the poll findings, plus the topline data and charts.

–Kaiser Health News

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2 Responses for “Being Sick in America”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    I consistently find in conversations with other people about the healthcare law that the ones who insist that there is no healthcare problem that needs to be fixed are the ones who are healthy – who aren’t actually healthcare consumers.

    Well duh, you don’t notice that the transmission is grinding in the car if you don’t actually drive it.

  2. Mario diGir says:

    HealthCare is an oxymoron here in the US. Costs are out-of-control and quality is down the tubes. All anyone cares about is profits. Medications are way too expensive here, as Big Pharma is given total control over ridiculously long patents. People die every day just because they can’t stand the thought of leaving their loved ones with huge medical bills. It’s sickening. And, don’t go to the hospital … cause your guaranteed an untreatable staff infection. Yuk!

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