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Americans' health care pessimism

Data: U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis report by West Health and Gallup; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Americans' expectations about our health care system are a cascade of pessimism, according to new survey data from West Health and Gallup.

By the numbers: 76% expect health care costs to increase over the next couple of years, and 77% said they're concerned that rising health costs "will result in significant and lasting damage" to the U.S. economy. 69% said they're "not at all confident" Washington will be able to do anything about it.

Between the lines: Given the hypothetical choice between a 10% increase in their income or a guarantee that their health care costs wouldn't go up for 5 years, most people — 61% — said they'd take the freeze in health care costs.

  • Statistically, health costs are a bigger burden on lower-income families. But majorities in every income group — even people making more than $180,000 per year — said they'd rather have a freeze in health care costs than a 10% raise.

Americans are more down on the system as a whole, rather than on their personal experience with it.

  • Just 39% of those surveyed in the Gallup/West Health poll said they're satisfied with how well the U.S. health care system works for Americans generally, while 64% are satisfied with the way it works for their households.
  • Only 10% of those surveyed said they had foregone treatment in the past year because of its cost, while 12% said they borrowed money to pay for care.
  • Even so, that satisfaction seems tenuous: 45% are concerned that a "major health event" in their families could lead to bankruptcy.

My thought bubble: This same tug-of-war animates the political debate over health care — people are receptive to the idea that our system is bad, but there's still a risk in changing what they think works well for them.