SALT LAKE CITY — More than half of Utahns are worried about paying for health care. And, they want the government to find solutions, according to a recent survey of Utah adults.
"Respondents told us that they're very dissatisfied with how the health system is working right now," said Lynn Quincy, director of the Altarum Healthcare Value Hub, a national nonprofit that surveyed more than 1,000 adults in Utah last fall. She said health care affordability governs whether those surveyed seek health care far more than any other barrier.
The majority surveyed — 77 percent — say the health care system in America needs to change.
"While they do see a role for themselves in this, primarily in the form of taking better care of their health … they really feel the solutions have to come from government," Quincy said. She said there is bipartisan support from those surveyed for better solutions in government.
Respondents want fair prices for medications and health care services, but also to be able to shop for the best deals on those, which requires more transparency. They also want easier ways to switch insurance companies when changes are made to their coverage plans and, according to the survey results, Utahns also want upfront cost estimates for goods and services, and fewer unexpected charges to deal with.
At least two Utah lawmakers are aiming to make widespread changes to the system, proposing bills that would create tools to help consumers shop services and provide transparent drug pricing.
"Often is the case, consumers have no idea how much a medical procedure or service costs," said Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. "They just have no idea."
But more people are opting for health savings accounts or will pay with cash, leading more of them to shop for the best prices. To do that, Daw proposes that the Utah Department of Health and Utah's Public Employee Health Plan share information on any insurance claim, giving consumers an idea of what they'd have to pay for various services.
"We want to be a little more sophisticated," Daw said.
About 60 percent of those surveyed by the Healthcare Value Hub said they experienced financial burdens related to health care in the past year, Quincy said Wednesday during a briefing on the survey results, sponsored by the local Utah Health Policy Project.
In addition, 53 percent of respondents said they went without needed care because of cost concerns. Many, too, get the care but then struggle to pay the resulting medical bills.
"To me, it's a really loud call from Utah voters that they need some fixes in the health care system so they can be better consumers," Quincy said.
Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, is sponsoring a bill that would tell consumers, and the government, where in the manufacturing to procurement process that the prices are increasing, allowing them to better understand and respond to the market and "underline inefficiencies," Thurston said.
"We're up here trying to make a policy about pharmacy costs growing out of control, but we don't know what is making it grow out of control," he said, adding that "markets work best when you have people competing for a better price."5 comments on this story
Thurston's plan to make the process more transparent, he said, is the most aggressive across the country. The bill has yet to be introduced.
"We want to know the whole system, top to bottom," Thurston said, adding that knowing Utahns are behind the idea of more transparency helps to fight his cause.
For survey results and accompanying data briefs, visit healthcarevaluehub.org.
Quincy said consumers are looking for help with things that are completely out of their control, adding, "they need a government regulator to step in and help them navigate."