Consumers Consider Cost When They Think About Medical Innovation

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While the vast majority of Americans say that science has made life easier for most people, and especially for health care, people are split in questioning the financial cost and value of medical treatments, the Pew Research Center has found.

The first chart illustrates the percent of Americans identifying various aspects of medical treatments as “big problems.” If you add in people who see these as “small problems,” 9 in 10 Americans say that all of these line items are “problems.”

In the sample, two-thirds of respondents had seen a health care provider for an illness or medical condition in the past 12 months, so two-thirds of the survey sample have faced a medical encounter yielding some kind of medical bill in the past year.

The second chart shows the roughly 50/50 split of U.S. adults who say medical care can create as many problems as it solves, versus the other half who believe therapies are worth the costs as they extend peoples’ lifespans and quality of life.

That sentiment is also split 50/50 alike across Democrats and Republicans.

The perspective differs, though, depending on peoples’ household income. For families earning at least $100,000 a year, most believe healthcare treatments are worth what they cost. For people earning under $30K, most people believe healthcare creates as many problems as it solves.

The Pew Research Center interviewed 2,537 U.S. adults in April-May 2018 for this survey.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Americans draw a very big distinction between biotech and pharma when it comes to trust, this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer found. Biotech = innovation; Pharma = cost- and profit-seeking, was the rough arithmetic I intuited from the survey findings, which I discussed here in Health Populi.

The Pew poll underscores the growing role of costs in patients’ consciousness: 8 in 10 people said that the cost of treatments makes quality care unaffordable. Most also believe that people over-rely on prescription drugs that may not be necessary, and that medicines’ side effects create “as many problems as they solve.”

Most people in the U.S. also say that, while they’re confident there’s good healthcare available, most aren’t confident they can afford it. This data point came from Consumer Reports research conducted as President Trump assumed his job in the Oval Office.

Patients in America are all growing health economics muscles, facing great first-dollar costs in the face of amazing innovations that, for many, will be out of financial reach. Watch this space with the possibility of further erosion of Affordable Care Act provisions to ensure availability of that health care and health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. This issue is top-of-mind for most American voters in the 2018 mid-term elections, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently told us.