Utahns worried about affording care

Utahns are anxious about health care costs in the state and have trouble figuring what they might have to pay for care according to the results of a new survey released this week by the Healthcare Value Hub, a joint venture of Altarum and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report is based on a survey of 1,080 respondents conducted between August 28 to September 14, 2018.

According to the survey, 60 percent of Utah adults have either been uninsured, delayed or postponed care, or struggled to pay medical bills with in the last 12 months. In addition, over 4 out of 5 Utahns (83 percent) reported being “worried” or “very worried” that they wouldn’t be able to afford care in the future, with the top worries being the affordability of long-term care followed closely by the cost of a serious illness or accident, and prescription drug costs.

Perhaps most interesting was the level of insecurity over health care costs of Utahn’s that are currently insured. Just 8 percent of those surveyed were uninsured, yet 69 percent reported that they were “worried” or “very worried” about not being able to afford health insurance in the future.



Of the worried insured, the worry was relatively even spread across insurance type, with those that had military-based insurance less worried that they would lose or not be able to afford it.

Though the survey shows, not surprisingly, that worry lessens as income increases, still 43 percent of adults with incomes over $100,000 indicated that they had a problem with affordability within the past 12 months. Additionally, almost 80 percent of thoses indicated that they were worried about affording care.



A second report on the fall survey suggest that uncertainty about prices contributes to this anxiety. Only 59 percent of Utah adults reported that they were confident that they could find out the cost of a procedure ahead of time.  And of the 70 percent of people surveyed that stated they sought a price in the last 12 months, only 18 percent reported successfully comparing prices.

In an attempt to alleviate uncertainty in cost and affordability, Representative Brad Daw has introduced HB 178 this session.  The bill creates a commission to study the cost of creating and maintaining a health care price transparency tool that is available to the public and incorporates cost data from providers, health plans, non-profit health care organizations, HMOs, hospitals, and employers that provide self-funded insurance plans.

The tool would be required to report price information on common health care procedures, like preventative care or diabetes maintenance, in user-friendly and accurate manner.  Currently the state collects similar data, but it is not required to publish or make it easily searchable for the average person.

Explained Representative Daw to KLS.com last fall,

“They [the public] would be able to go to a website, type in that procedure and get a listing of what different providers charge for it and also an indicator of quality. We hope to see that prices would tend to come down as consumers become more aware of better deals.”

As of January 1, 2019, hospitals are now required by federal regulation to post their chargemasters or price lists, but those are not easily searchable or comparable across platforms.