WASHINGTON (AP) — When Emmanuel Obeng-Dankwa worries about the rent on his New York City apartment, he sometimes refrains from refilling his blood pressure medication.
“If there’s no money, I’d rather skip the medicine to be homeless,” said Obeng-Dankwa, a 58-year-old security guard.
He is among a majority of U.S. adults who say health care is not well run in the country, according to a new survey by the Associated Press Center for Public Affairs Research and NORC.
The survey found that public satisfaction with the US health care system is extremely low, with less than half of Americans saying it is generally well managed. Only 12% say they are doing extremely or very well. Americans have similar views on health care for the elderly.
Overall, the public gives even lower estimates of how much prescription drugs costthe quality of care in nursing homes and mental health care are handled, with only 6% or less saying that these health services are provided very well in the country.
“Navigating the American health care system is extremely frustrating,” said A. Mark Fendrick, director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan. “The COVID pandemic has only made it worse.”
More than two years after the start of the pandemic, health care worker burnout and staff shortages are plaguing hospitals across the country. And Americans are still having trouble getting in-person medical care after health centers imposed restrictions as COVID-19 killed and sickened millions of people across the country, Fendrick said.
In fact, the poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans, nearly 8 in 10, say they are at least moderately concerned about getting access to quality health care when they need it.
Black and Hispanic adults in particular are highly concerned about access to health care, with nearly 6 in 10 saying they are very or extremely concerned about getting good care. Less than half of white adults, 44%, expressed the same level of concern.
Racial disparities have long troubled America’s health care system. They were starkly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, with blacks and Hispanics dying disproportionately from the virus. Black and Hispanic men also account for a disproportionately high rate of recent monkeypox infections.
Fifty-three percent of women say they are extremely or very concerned about getting quality care, compared to 42% of men.
While Americans are united in their dissatisfaction with the health care system, that agreement falls apart when it comes to solutions to fix it.
About two-thirds of adults believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have health coverage, with adults ages 18 to 49 more likely than those over 50 to hold this view. The percentage of people who believe that health insurance is the government’s responsibility has increased in recent years, from 57% in 2019 and 62% in 2017.
However, there is no consensus on how this coverage can be provided.
About 4 in 10 Americans say they support a single-payer health care system that would require Americans to get their health insurance from a government plan. More, 58%, say they prefer a public health insurance plan that anyone can buy.
There is also broad support for policies that would help Americans pay for long-term care, including a government-administered insurance plan similar to Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance for people 65 and older.
Retired nurse Penny Wright of Camden, Tennessee, doesn’t like the idea of a government health care system.
After switching to Medicare this year, she was surprised to skip her annual well-woman visit after it was fully covered by her private insurance plan, with $200 in co-pays for a mammogram and Pap smear.
She prefers the flexibility she had in her private insurance plan.
“I feel like we have the best health care system in the world, we have a choice where we want to go,” Wright said.
A majority of Americans, roughly two-thirds, were happy to see the government step in to provide free COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatment. About 2 in 10 were neutral about the government’s response.
Government funding for free COVID-19 testing dried up at the beginning of the month. And while the White House says the latest batch of recommended COVID-19 boosters will be free for anyone who wantsthere is no money on hand to buy future rounds of booster shots for every American.
Eighty percent say they support the federal government’s negotiations for lower drug prices. President Joe Biden this summer signed a landmark bill that allows Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. The move is expected to save taxpayers up to $100 billion over the next decade.
“Drug costs should be low, at a minimum, so that everyone can afford them,” said Obeng-Dankwa, the Bronx renter who is having trouble paying for his medication. “Those who are poor should be able to get all the necessary health care they need in the same way as someone who also has the money to pay for it.”
AP investigative reporter Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.
The poll of 1,505 adults was conducted July 28-Aug. 1 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Follow AP’s coverage of health care costs at https://apnews.com/hub/health-care-costs.