WASHINGTON (AP) — When Emmanuel Obeng-Dankwa worries about the rent for his New York City apartment, he sometimes hesitates to fill up his blood pressure medication.
“If there’s no money, I’d rather skip the medication to become homeless,” said Obeng- Dankwa, a 58-year-old security guard.
He is among a majority of US adults who say health care is not well managed in the country, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survey shows that public satisfaction with the US health care system is remarkably low, with less than half of Americans saying it is generally well managed. Only 12% say it is handled extremely or very well. Americans have similar views on health care for older adults.
Overall, the public gives even lower marks for how prescription drug costs, quality of care in nursing homes, and mental health care are managed, with just 6 percent or fewer saying these health services are very well delivered in the country.
“Navigating the American healthcare system is extremely frustrating,” said A. Mark Fendrick, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design. “The COVID pandemic has only made it worse.”
More than two years into the pandemic, burnout among healthcare workers and staff shortages are plaguing hospitals across the country. And Americans are still struggling to get personal medical care after health centers imposed restrictions as COVID-19 has killed and sickened millions across the country, Fendrick said.
In fact, the poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans, nearly 8 in 10, say they are at least moderately concerned about accessing quality health care when they need it.
Black and Hispanic adults in particular are very concerned about accessing health care, with nearly 6 in 10 saying they are very or extremely concerned about getting good care. Less than half of white adults, 44%, expressed the same level of concern.
Racial disparities have long troubled the American healthcare system. They have been prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with blacks and Hispanics disproportionately dying from the virus. Black and Hispanic men also account for a disproportionately high rate of recent monkeypox infections.
Fifty-three percent of women said they were very or very concerned about receiving quality care, compared to 42 percent of men.
While Americans are united in their dissatisfaction with the health care system, that agreement is unraveling when it comes to solutions to fix it.
About two-thirds of adults believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have health insurance, with adults ages 18-49 more likely to think so than those over 50. The percentage of people who believe that health care is a government responsibility has increased in recent years, rising from 57% in 2019 to 62% in 2017.
However, there is no consensus as to how this reporting might be provided.
About 4 in 10 Americans say they support a single-payer health care system that would require Americans to get their health insurance from a state plan. Another 58% say they prefer government health insurance that anyone can get.
There is also broad support for policies that would help Americans pay for long-term care costs, including a federally administered insurance plan similar to Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance plan for people age 65 and older.
Retired nurse Pennie Wright from Camden, Tennessee doesn’t like the idea of a government-run healthcare system.
After switching to Medicare earlier this year, she was surprised to walk away with a $200 bill on her annual visit to a healthy woman, once fully covered by her private insurance plan.
She prefers the flexibility she had with her private insurance plan.
“I feel like we have the best healthcare system in the world, we have a choice of where we want to go,” Wright said.
A majority of Americans, about two-thirds, were glad the government stepped in to provide free COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatments. About 2 in 10 were neutral about the government’s response.
Government funding for free COVID-19 testing dried up earlier this month. And while the White House says the latest batch of recommended COVID-19 boosters will be free to anyone who wants one, it has no money on hand to buy future rounds of booster shots for every American.
Eighty percent say they support the federal government’s negotiations for lower drug prices. President Joe Biden signed landmark legislation this summer allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. The move is expected to save taxpayers up to $100 billion over the next decade.
“Medication costs should be as low as possible so that everyone can afford them,” said Obeng- Dankwa, the Bronx tenant who is struggling to pay for his medication. “Those who are poor should be able to get the necessary health care they need, just like someone who also has the money to pay for it.”
AP polling reporter Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.
The survey of 1,505 adults was conducted from July 28th to August 8th. 1 using a sample from NORC’s AmeriSpeak Probability-Based Panel, intended to be representative of the US population. The sampling error rate for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Follow AP’s healthcare cost coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/health-care-costs.