Healthy Choices

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Health-care reform has taken a backseat on Capitol Hill due to the more immediate concerns regarding our nation's security. However, a poll conducted for American Demographics during the weekend of September 6 reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that decisions regarding the course and cost of medical treatment should reside with them and their doctors — not with insurance companies and other health-care providers.

According to this month's exclusive survey of 2,514 individuals, conducted by NFO Migliara/Kaplan, a Princeton, N.J.-based health-care market research firm, 85 percent of Americans believe they are entitled to the best possible medical care, regardless of cost. Interestingly, women feel strongest that their health-care needs should be blind to price, with 88 percent agreeing that money should be no object when it comes to health care. Significantly fewer men (79 percent) feel that they are entitled to the best possible health-care benefits regardless of cost.

Entitled? Yes. Receiving? No. Only 18 percent of our fellow countrymen and women completely agree that their current medical coverage provides them with the best possible care, regardless of cost. Those most satisfied with their health-care services live in the Northeast, where 22 percent of the population agrees that their medical coverage provides them with the best care, regardless of cost, compared with 17 percent of Americans in the South and 16 percent in the Midwest and West.

Does this mean Americans think they're entitled to a midlife tummy tuck and facelift? Not quite. Proving that they have a pragmatic side, 54 percent of respondents said that it is acceptable to deny a patient coverage for cosmetic treatments that offer no health benefits. And 4 in 10 respondents (40 percent) also said it was acceptable for insurance companies to refuse payment of treatments that will not “significantly improve the patient's quality of life.� A similar portion of the population is skeptical of treatments that lack proof of success. Thirty-eight percent say it's justifiable for insurance companies and other providers to deny coverage for experimental treatments.

Under most circumstances, men are more likely than women to tell a doctor to put down the scalpel. In the case of experimental treatments, for instance, 45 percent of men say that it's acceptable for insurance companies to deny a patient coverage, compared with just 34 percent of women. Older Americans are also more inclined to allow insurers to turn down a claim. When it comes to treatments that will not significantly improve the patient's quality of life, 47 percent of Americans age 44 and older say it's all right to deny coverage, compared with 33 percent of adults younger than 44.

There are a couple of circumstances, though, under which virtually all Americans agree that it is completely unacceptable to deny a patient treatment. Ninety-seven percent of respondents say that the cost of the treatment alone is never a valid reason to deny a patient coverage. A vast majority of Americans also feel that doctors and patients, not insurers, should be the ones to decide whether or not a treatment is needed. Only 4 percent of respondents said that it is OK to deny a prescribed treatment if the company providing the coverage simply considered it “unnecessary.�

“Health care today is an emotional issue, made even more so as the cost of health care continues to soar,� says Lorna Walters, president of NFO Migliara/Kaplan. “Despite the costs, consumers clearly believe that decisions regarding health-care solutions should rest with themselves and their doctor practitioners and not with an outside organization. One's health should come first, regardless of the price tag.�

Americans apparently sport this belief up until the bitter end. Seventy-six percent of respondents said that it is improper for an insurance company to deny coverage of treatments that will “not significantly lengthen the patient's life.� And 66 percent of Americans disagree with the concept of placing caps on the cost of medical coverage for patients for whom death is “imminent or obviously near.� What is it they say about the fat lady?

$1,400 for a Broken Leg, and Not a Dollar More!

Men are slightly more likely to agree with price caps on the cost of medical coverage based on the ailment or condition being treated.


Acceptable 29% 22%
Completely 6% 4%
Somewhat 23% 18%
Unacceptable 61% 63%
Completely 39% 42%
Somewhat 21% 21%
Neither acceptable nor unacceptable 11% 15%
Source: American Demographics/NFO Migliara/Kaplan
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