New Report Analyzes Public Thinking on Health Care

Download the full report Public Thinking about Coping with the Cost of Health Care Download the report's Executive Summary The American people see the nation’s health-care system as at or near the breaking point and no longer able to be sustained. This suggestion is a result of new analysis of 2008-2009 National Issues Forums on Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? Public Thinking about Coping with the Cost of Health Care, a report prepared by Public Agenda with the Kettering Foundation, is based on research involving more than 1,000 citizens in deliberative forums held in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The study shows that U.S. citizens are so gravely concerned about the cost of health care that many worry about it daily. Their concerns are wide and varied:

  • being wiped out financially by a catastrophic illness
  • losing employer-provided coverage due to a job loss
  • keeping up with escalating co-pays and deductibles
  • paying for even minor medical expenses—a problem for the nearly 50 million uninsured

People believe that the rising costs of medical care, pharmaceuticals, and insurance pose the greatest threat to the system, the report finds. At the same time, the analysis shows that Americans have not fully explore the reasons why medical costs are rising. Overwhelmingly those who participated in the forums clearly favored some kind of national health-care program that would ensure appropriate medical care for all citizens. But participants were uncertain how to proceed and unclear about what such a system would look like, suggesting that the public has not reached a considered public judgment about what direction reform should take. While health-care reform is clearly an issue Americans desperately want to address, Public Thinking about Coping with the Cost of Health Care finds that more work is required to move the national dialogue forward: people need a clear set of policy choices, with inherent costs and trade-offs spelled out, and the opportunity to deliberate about those options.