Healthcare Attitudes, Knowledge, And Decision Making (Report)

Rising healthcare costs in the United States represent a major economic burden to citizens (Selden, 2009). Several large-scale surveys gauging Americans’ opinions and knowledge of healthcare and healthcare reform (Kohut, Keeter, Doherty, Dimock, Remes, Suls, et al., 2009; Jones, 2009a; Jones, 2009b; Penn, Schoen & Berland, 2009; Saad, 2009) arose in response to the recent congressional debates about healthcare reform. To a lesser extent, healthcare decision-making has been investigated (e.g., Furnham, Meader, & McClelland, 1999; Furnham, Simmons, & McClelland, 2000). Our study examined the associations between participants’ knowledge and attitudes about healthcare and healthcare reform. In addition, we experimentally investigated how participants make healthcare decisions when medical resources are rationed. We collected data several months prior to the passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a set of laws that substantially changed the way healthcare is administered in the U.S. Our goal was to examine knowledge, attitudes, and decision making on the eve of major healthcare reform. The rising costs of healthcare in the United States have had an adverse impact on American life. Healthcare costs have grown from 11% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1987 to 16% in 2005 (Sood, Ghosh, & Escarce, 2009). Rising healthcare costs have a negative impact on U.S. families. Selden (2009) examined family healthcare spending during a period of one year. He found that about half of all yearly medical expenses occurred in a single month, indicating that families are prone to falling into sudden debt over healthcare costs. One quarter of the population experienced a single month in which healthcare costs exceeded 20% of their incomes. Families who had trouble paying medical bills were likely to incur additional debt (e.g., paying for groceries with credit cards). In 2009, American opinion reflected sensitivity to rising costs. For example, Americans rated affordability as the nation’s biggest healthcare problem (Saad, 2009).

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