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Survey: CT residents burdened by healthcare costs, complexity; want reforms

BY Matt Pilon

10/11/2018
PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Connecticut residents across the political spectrum want state laws that require healthcare pricing transparency and make it easier to navigate the often complex system, according to a survey from the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.

The survey of more than 900 Connecticut adults found that half experienced healthcare affordability burdens over the previous 12 months. Of that group, four in five said they had delayed or skipped a doctor visit, medical procedure or test; cut pills in half or skipped doses; or had trouble accessing mental health care -- mainly due to cost.

Over 40 percent were less than confident they could afford to pay for a major illness.

Though lower income households had the highest reported amount of affordability burden (63 percent), 42 percent of households making more than the state's median income still reported experiencing cost burdens.

More than 90 percent of those surveyed support taking such steps as:

  • Showing patients a "fair cost" for specific procedures.
  • Requiring medical providers and insurers to give up-front cost estimates.
  • Giving the state Attorney General the authority to prevent price gouging on prescription drugs.
Altarum Healthcare Value Hub, which conducted the survey for the foundation, said it found that support was consistent by political affiliation -- Democrat, Republican or other.

"It is clear that people want our state policymakers to take action," Jill Zorn, the foundation's senior policy officer, said in a statement.

The survey also found that one-third of state residents had received a "surprise medical bill" in the previous 12 months, with all income groups experiencing them at roughly the same rate. Those surprises included being charged more than expected, receiving an altogether unexpected bill and being charged out-of-network rates.

Meanwhile, the survey found that lower-income households had the least confidence in navigating the healthcare system, including tasks like disputing a bill or fixing a problem with a provider or health plan. In addition, only 49 percent could accurately define "coinsurance."

The foundation wants the state to adopt protections that make surprise bills less common, simplify cost-sharing benefit designs and adopt other structural changes to help consumers navigate health care.

Survey respondents were evenly split by gender, and weighted slightly towards households making $60,000 or more. In addition, 56 percent of respondents had health insurance through an employer or family member's employer while the second-largest segment (19 percent) were Medicare beneficiaries. Political affiliation was split Democrat (26 percent), Republican (35 percent) and neither (39 percent).