What the public thinks about high health care costs

Although many health policy experts think that overuse of health care services is a significant contributor to high health care costs, the public’s major concern is that prices for services and drugs are simply too high.

That’s according to a review of 14 national public opinion polls from 2018 and 2019  conducted by experts from Harvard University.

In a May 29, 2019 Perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the co-authors noted that 76% of the public believes that Americans are paying too much for most of the health care they receive, relative to its quality. The public lays much of the blame for high care costs at the feet of pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and hospitals, the authors said.

Polls have also found that, in general, Democrats favor government efforts, especially by the federal government, to control health care costs, while Republicans believe that private health insurance and state governments would be more effective at reducing costs.

The public is skeptical that any cost-reduction approach will succeed in reducing health care prices, the authors said—which means that if people are to actively support any such proposals, they’ll have to be shown that those proposals would actually reduce their costs for care.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health co-authors included Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, and John Benson, senior research scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

Read the NEJM article: The Upcoming U.S. Health Care Cost Debate — The Public’s Views