The COVID-19 crisis underscored the importance of quality health care, and new data reveals it also intensified patient anxieties about the ability to pay for care.
In a survey from Consumers for Quality Care, 80% of respondents agreed health care costs continue to rise each year, and 57% of voters said they're specifically worried about out-of-pocket costs.
Joelle Abramowitz, co-director of the Michigan Federal Statistical Research Data Center, part of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, said patients are more likely to skip or delay routine medical care when premiums and deductibles are too high.
"Having coverage literally saves people's lives," Abramowitz asserted. "Even if you're not sick today you could be sick tomorrow. And people don't seek preventative care; they don't seek care when they need it, because of cost, if they don't have coverage. And we've seen that."
Here in Michigan, more than 10% of people with employer coverage pay high premiums, defined as 10% or more of their annual household income.
Jason Resendez, a board member of the group Consumers for Quality Care, explained 67% of those surveyed want Congress to prioritize controlling health care costs, but he pointed out patients are often not included in the public policy debate.
"Research like this is critical to be able to really look at how patients are being affected by these policies," Resendez contended. "Particularly during unprecedented times, like we're in now, and then prioritizing the patient and consumer voice when it comes to policy development."
Resendez added along with addressing barriers like rising health care costs, improving access is also important. For example, 69% of those surveyed said they are likely to use telehealth services after the pandemic.
"Telehealth gives you the ability to engage with a neurologist in a neurology desert, for example," Resendez observed. "The same thing can be said when it comes to being able to receive care from a culturally competent provider. Telehealth offers that."
And while most surveyed want health care system reforms, a majority also agreed any changes need to be made carefully as the nation emerges from the pandemic.