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Most Americans say the sick can't get adequate health insurance

A majority of Americans (89 percent) say it's difficult for people with chronic illnesses to find adequate health insurance. That's according to a Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of Partnership for Solutions, a consortium of organizations representing children, the elderly, health care professionals and various disease-specific organizations.

"This is a wake-up call for America. People with chronic conditions need help."

The partnership is led by Johns Hopkins University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The new health care initiative is dedicated to improving the care and quality of life for the more than 125 million Americans with chronic conditions, including allergies, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, mental disorders and paralysis.

"People with chronic conditions rely most heavily on the health care system — they see the most doctors, fill the most prescriptions, and need the most care — yet we're not meeting their needs," says Gerard Anderson, director of Partnership for Solutions. "This is a wake-up call for America. People with chronic conditions need help."

Harris Interactive surveyed 1,663 adult Americans (a cross-section that includes both healthy and chronically-ill people, along with caregivers to the chronically ill). According to the poll, most Americans report they're concerned about the quality of care people with chronic conditions are receiving.

  • 72 percent say it's difficult for people living with chronic conditions to get needed care from their health care providers.
  • 74 percent say it's difficult to obtain prescription drug medications.
  • 78 percent say it's difficult to get help from family members.

In addition, two-thirds of those polled who do not have a chronic condition say they believe they are likely to develop one.   Those same people fear they will be unable to afford needed medical care, will lose their independence and will become a burden to their families.

Sick face gaps in care and insurance coverage

The survey also reveals people with chronic conditions and their caregivers face constant challenges in receiving care. Harris Interactive and the Partnership for Solutions found that:

  • 10 percent of people with chronic conditions polled say in the last year they were not able to see a primary care physician when they felt it was necessary.
  • 11 percent report in the past year they were not able to see a specialist physician.
  • 14 percent report different doctors diagnosed them with varied medical problems for the same set of symptoms in the past year.
  • 16 percent report they have been warned by a pharmacist about a possibly harmful interaction between medications they were prescribed by one or more physicians.
  • 17 percent say they have received contradictory information from health professionals.
  • 22 percent of those who have health insurance say it does not cover all the types of care they need
  • 45 percent say they feel that the costs of their care are a financial burden.

Partners for Solutions consortium

Alzheimer's Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Diabetes Association
American Geriatrics Society
Family Voices
Johns Hopkins University
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
National Chronic Care Consortium
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The survey also finds, on average, family caregivers provide care for their loved ones for 4.5 years, with the unpaid help of four friends or family members.

By 2020, the number of people living with chronic conditions is expected to rise to 157 million, according to the Partnership. The organization claims direct medical costs are expected to double to more than $1 trillion. The survey reports an overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed say they want Congress to find solutions.

  • 94 percent say they favor adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
  • 92 percent say they are in favor of government funding long term care insurance.
  • 92 percent say they favor a tax break for caregivers.
  • 85 percent say they support a tax break for people who purchase private long term care insurance.

Searching for solutions

Partnership for Solutions will focus its efforts on conducting original research that clarifies the nature of health care problems for the chronically ill and communicating its findings to policymakers, business leaders and health professionals. While the Partnership does not endorse a specific approach to improving either the delivery or financing of care for people with chronic health problems, it says it is committed to fostering a "national discussion" about a wide array of both private and public solutions.

By 2020, the number of people living with chronic conditions is expected to rise to 157 million.

One area of definite concern to the Partnership is health care costs. According to the consortium, yearly medical expenditures are five times higher for a person with a chronic condition than for a person without one.

"Americans grappling with Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or depression and their loved ones have many problems in common," says Dr. Lewis Sandy, the partnership's executive vice president. "These challenges include high costs, inadequate insurance coverage, including difficulty getting reimbursed, and an often confusing health care system that makes it difficult to obtain thoughtful and coordinated care. By addressing these and other problems, millions of Americans with chronic conditions and their loved ones will benefit."

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