Data Dives

Poll: What It’s Like To Be Sick In America

By Richard Knox and Joe Neel, NPR News

May 21st, 2012, 9:09 AM

This story comes from our partner ‘s Shots blog.

In the lull between the Supreme Court arguments over the federal health overhaul law and the decision expected in June, we thought we’d ask Americans who actually use the health system quite a bit how they view the quality of care and its cost.

Source: NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health Poll. Credit: Alyson Hurt/Nelson Hsu, NPR

Most surveys don’t break it down this way.

When the results came back, we found that people who have a serious medical condition or who’ve been in the hospital in the past year tended to have more concerns about costs and quality than people who aren’t sick. No big surprise there.

But what was notable: 3 of 4 people who were sick said cost is a very serious problem, and half said quality is a veryserious problem.

Nearly half of those with recent serious illness say they felt burdened by what they had to pay out of their own pocket for care.

The recently ill are more likely to say the cost and quality of care have worsened over the past five years, compared to people who weren’t sick.

Among people who’ve recently required a lot of care, significant proportions say their treatment was poorly managed, with nearly a third complaining of poor communication among their caregivers. One in eight believe they got the wrong diagnosis, treatment or test.

Those findings led us to investigate the problems people are having, both in our poll and in a series of stories on the radio and the Web we’re calling “Sick in America.”

The poll, a joint venture of NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of very few focusing on people who’ve actually been seriously ill, injured or hospitalized in the past year.

“This poll listens to the voices of the sick,” says Robert Blendon of Harvard. “That provides a good barometer of what’s happening in health care in America.”

The poll randomly surveyed 1,508 adults across the nation. A little more than a quarter of them had a serious illness, injury or disability requiring “a lot of medical care,” or overnight hospitalization within the past 12 months.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s a summary of the poll findings, plus the topline data and charts.

3 Responses to “Poll: What It’s Like To Be Sick In America”

  1. Diana Prine says:

    In 2001 I started to have this movement disorder, head and left arm , could not do heel toe, balance problems , double vision, cataracts growing had to use cane and brace left arm cause my fingers were digging into my hand afraid they would get stuck had to keep them straight, No diagnosis was given to me Feb of this year movements came back same thing but the pain is worse they are saying not MS they are saying I need psychiatry Baaa now going to different hospital and Drs. I also have deficiencey in Vit D and B I can not get no lawyer to help me cause no diagnosis as of yet and time frame so now Im still waiting for diagnosis health care and Drs dont want you to know I feel at least as you can see that is my experience all along

  2. Harry says:

    I’ve been sick in the past 12 months. I totally agree with all of the data above. America’s health care system is the world’s worst at the highest cost. My best advice. If you must get sick, don’t do it in America! On top of that, I don’t know why Mitt Romney is running away from his record of passing an historic health care reform measure in Massachusetts. The people of Massachusetts overwhelmingly approve of Romneycare by a 3 to 1 margin. Virtually everyone in Massachusetts has health insurance that they can afford. President Obama copied Romneycare and produced Obamacare. Why would Mitt Romney put down his most successful achievement? Is this further proof that Mitt Romney will flip-flop on any issue when it is politically expedient? Will the “real” Mitt Romney please stand up?

  3. Dana says:

    All I can say is DONT get sick in South Dallas or Ellis County wow talk about some poor care. What a bunch of medical deviants…. can’t figure it out then blame ME and when they realize their mistake do not have the fortitude to apologize but instead dismiss me from their practice instead of doing damage control for their OWN shoddy work !