News reports are trumpeting a new poll which seems to suggest that Americans are unhappy with the quality of their healthcare. But are Americans really dissatisfied or just buying into news coverage suggesting our healthcare system is broken? In this case, the study organizers got what they polled for.
Here’s one report on the study from The Hill that seems typical of much of the coverage:
More than half of Americans believe the quality of U.S. healthcare is average at best, a new poll finds.
Fifty-fifty percent gave healthcare quality a C or D grade on a typical report card scale, and 11 percent said the system completely flunks out, according to a survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“The poll is a wake-up call for payers and the healthcare industry, both of which have been working steadily to improve the quality of care, but need to kick their efforts into overdrive toward accountability,” said foundation president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey.
Now, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a fine organization. But the above blurb is at best misleading and at worst intellectually dishonest. The question posed was:
“Using an A,B,C,D, and F grading scale like they do in school, how would you grade each of the following”… with respondents then being asked to appraise “The quality of health care in the country as a whole.”
That’s the question that led to the conclusion that Americans don’t think much of their healthcare system. And it provides great fodder for those looking to affirm the need for Obamacare.
Here’s the problem: When the same 1034 respondents were asked how they would rate the “quality of health care YOU receive”, 65% gave it an A or B and another 19% a C.
There’s clearly a disconnect between how respondents view their own personal healthcare experiences and what they imagine the experience of others with the system to be. In the end though, respondents have little clear expertise for evaluating anything but their own personal experiences and are perfectly happy with those personal experiences. They may believe that others’ health care experiences, elsewhere in our country, are profoundly unsatisfying, but rate their own interactions with providers as mostly positive.
Couldn’t the headline of the blog piece have been, “Americans love their healthcare” rather than the actual headline: “Poll: Most Americans have unfavorable view of healthcare quality”?
American healthcare is too expensive and needs reform, but don’t believe that patients and healthy citizens hate our system. They seem satisfied with the results too: According to a Congressional Research Service study conducted in 2007, 89% of Americans report their health as being “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” — the third highest of the many advanced countries comprising the Organization for Economic Development.
Despite the spin on this latest study, most Americans still rate their health as good and their personal experiences with the health care system as positive.