The Spectrum Health Value Study: Insured vs. Uninsured

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In May, we wrote about the Spectrum Health Value Study, an ongoing national online survey where Americans are asked what they value when it comes to healthcare products and services. The survey evaluates 27 programs, products and services categories used by the U.S. government for measuring economic activity in various sectors of the economy. Every three months, Spectrum, a public relations and public affairs firm based in Washington DC, interviews 1,000 people and asks them to identify from the 27 healthcare products, programs and services those ever used and how satisfied they were with each. The ongoing study can be used to identify the relative value Americans place in healthcare programs, products and services, and how the value changes over time.

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Insured and uninsured

The most recent Spectrum Health Value Study data was used to compare answers from insured and uninsured respondents. As Congress recesses for the month of August to talk with their constituents about the current healthcare legislation under consideration in the U.S. House and Senate, these data offer a glimpse into what insured and uninsured Americans value in healthcare.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2006 identified 47 million uninsured people. The Spectrum Health Value Study found that 78% of all respondents had insurance coverage, which if extrapolated to the entire U.S. population, equates to 51.2 million uninsured people. This is an increase of 9% (4.2 million people) over the past three years.

Household income showed a clear partitioning of insured vs. uninsured. A significantly greater percentage of respondents were uninsured at household incomes up to $34,499. At incomes of $35,000 and higher, a significantly greater percentage of respondents were insured.

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Not surprisingly, the insured are more likely to have ever used most health care products, programs and services than the uninsured. However, the study identified four services the uninsured are statistically more likely to have used than the insured:

  • Family social/health services
  • Nutrition services
  • Substance abuse services
  • Health relief services (such as during a national disaster)

Compared to the insured, a statistically greater percentage of uninsured respondents use several healthcare services on a regular basis:

  • Family social/health services
  • Nutrition services
  • Emergency care services
  • Substance abuse services

The sharpest differences were observed in Physician and Dentist services, with twice as many insured using those services as uninsured. Just under one-third (32%) of uninsured respondents reported using no services at all on a regular basis compared to 12% of insured.

Economic downturn effects on healthcare

The study also evaluated how the economic downturn has affected regular use of healthcare products and services. Between January 2009 and May 2009 the uninsured have neither increased or decreased their regular use of medical services. In contrast, the insured have reduced their use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, dentist services and personal health products. Concomitantly, there has been an increase in the use of mental health services, psychiatric services, family/social health services, substance abuse services and health relief services among the insured.

Chronic illnesses

Overall, approximately 60% of the respondents reported a chronic illness in the past year. The most frequent reported chronic illness of both the insured and uninsured was allergy. The uninsured reported a significantly greater percentage of three illnesses: hypertension, thyroid disease and cancer (any form).

Other notable points:

  • American’s are divided when it comes to satisfaction with health insurance coverage; just over half of those surveyed (59%) indicate a high level of satisfaction. At 27%, African-Americans were more likely to indicate that they were extremely satisfied with their health insurance than were whites (16%).
  • The most commonly cited health products, programs or services ever used by both the insured and uninsured were prescription drugs and over the counter drugs.
  • Although uninsured respondents reported that they believe insurance is “absolutely essential,” they still lack coverage.

Spectrum will continue to update the study findings each quarter. You can access the full report at the Spectrum Health Value Study web site.

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References

  1. The Insured Versus the Uninsured: Data from the Spectrum Health Value Study July 2009. Spectrum. Accessed 2009 May 18.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.