Nationally, consumer worry about healthcare affordability is well documented but now—for the first time—a new survey reveals how affordability concerns and ideas for action play out in Wisconsin.
Like many Americans, Wisconin adults currently experience hardship due to high healthcare costs. All told, 53% of Wisconsin adults experienced one or more of the following healthcare affordability burdens in the prior 12 months:
1) Being Uninsured Due to High Premium Costs
2) Delaying or Forgoing Healthcare Due to Cost
Almost half (47%) of Wisconsin adults encountered one or more cost related barriers to getting healthcare during the prior 12 months, including:
At lower rates, respondents also reported trouble getting mental healthcare and/or addiction treatment. Moreover, cost was by far the most frequently cited reason for not getting needed medical care, exceeding a host of other barriers like transportation, difficulty getting an appointment, lack of childcare and other reasons.
Of the various types of medical bills, the ones most frequently associated with an affordability barrier were doctor visits, dental and prescriptions, likely reflecting the frequency with which Wisconsin adults seek these services—or, in the case of dental, perhaps lower rates of coverage for these services.
3) Struggling to Pay Medical Bills
Other times, Wisconsinites got the care they needed but then struggled to pay the resulting bill. More than a quarter (28%) of Wisconsin adults experienced one or more of these struggles while paying off medical bills:
In even greater numbers, Wisconsin adults worry about affording healthcare in the future. Overall, roughly 4 in 5 (79%) adults reported being “worried” or “very worried” about affording some aspect of healthcare in the future, including:
In addition, most respondents (65%) were “worried” or “very worried” about not being able to afford health insurance in the future. The greatest concern was among those who buy private health coverage as individuals and those on Medicaid—approximately 4 in 5 are worried (see Figure 1). In addition, those on Medicaid and individual market enrollees were worried about losing their coverage.
The survey also revealed some regional differences in how Wisconsinites experience healthcare affordability burdens. Responses were grouped into three regions shown in Figure 2.
The Western region of Wisconsin reported the greatest rate of healthcare affordability burdens—sixty percent of adults had one or more of the three types of burdens described above. This is consistent with this region having the lowest median income. In the other three regions, about half of respondents reported trouble affording healthcare.
In contrast, most regions of Wisconsin were very worried about affording healthcare in the future. Only the Southern region reported somewhat lower levels of worry.
In light of these healthcare affordability concerns, it is not surprising that Wisconsinites were extremely dissatisfied with the health system. Statewide:
The survey asked about both personal and governmental actions to address healthcare system problems.
Wisconsinites do see a role for themselves in addressing healthcare affordability. When asked to rank the three personal actions that would be most effective in addressing the affordability of healthcare (out of ten options), top vote getters were:
They also reported specific actions they have already taken, like researching the cost of a drug beforehand (51%), as well as action they should be taking—83% said they would switch from a brand to a generic drug if given a chance.
But far and away, Wisconsin residents see government as the key stakeholder that needs to act to address health system problems. Moreover, addressing healthcare problems trumps other issues that Wisconsinites want their elected representatives to work on.
At the beginning of the survey, respondents were asked what issues the government should address in the upcoming year. Healthcare was the most frequently cited issue, far exceeding the other eight options. The top vote getters were:
When asked about the top three healthcare priorities the government should work on, top vote getters were:
Of more than 20 options, Illinois adults believe the reason for high healthcare costs is unfair prices charged by powerful industry stakeholders:
When it comes to tackling costs and other consumer problems, respondents endorsed a number of strategies, including:
What is remarkable about the findings is high support for change regardless of respondents' political affiliation (see Table 1).
The high burden of healthcare affordability, along with high levels of support for change, suggest that elected leaders and other stakeholders need to make addressing this consumer burden a top priority. Annual surveys can help assess whether or not progress is being made.
Altarum’s Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) is designed to elicit respondents’ unbiased views on a wide range of health system issues, including confidence using the health system, financial burden, and views on fixes that might be needed.
The survey used a web panel from Dynata with a demographically balanced sample of approximately 1,000 respondents who live in Wisconsin. The survey was conducted only in English and restricted to adults ages 18 and older. Respondents who finished the survey in less than half the median time were excluded from the final sample, leaving 1,071 cases for analysis with sample balancing occurring in age, gender and income to be demographically representative of Wisconsin. After the exclusion, the demographic composition of respondents was as follows.