White Coat Notes

Survey: Despite some red flags, 8 in 10 people satisfied with health care in Mass.

The Massachusetts Medical Society released a public opinion poll about how people feel about health care in the state, seven years after the passage of Romneycare. The overall message: People are fairly happy with their care, though they wish it were cheaper.

The group in May interviewed 417 randomly selected people age 21 or older by phone. Here’s how the president of the medical society, which represents more than 23,000 doctors and trainees in the state, described the findings in a press release:

“Reform has not caused major disruption in the delivery of care as perceived by the patients,” [Dr. Ronald Dunlap] said. “Residents are telling us that they are satisfied with the quality of their care and that getting access to care is not difficult, despite longer-than-desired wait times for both new and existing patients to see physicians. The survey results also speak well of the state’s healthcare work force, as the number one reason for this satisfaction is quality of care.”

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Among the warning signs cited by Dr. Dunlap were the rise in emergency department usage and patients’ limited knowledge of new health insurance plans and models of care. “As emergency department use has a considerable impact on costs, and as new insurance plans and models of care become more prevalent,” Dr. Dunlap said, “these areas call for more attention and more patient education.”

A few highlights:

-- About two of three people said they believed their health care costs had increased in the past year. Just 3 percent said their care was somewhat less expensive.

-- Seventy-three percent of respondents said they had little trouble accessing the care they need. That’s down slightly from 2012.

-- Forty-three percent of respondents said they had seen a nurse, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, instead of a doctor, for medical care in the past year. While most people said they would rather see a doctor, two-thirds of those who had seen another professional said they felt the care they received was about the same as what they would receive from a doctor.

-- Three in 10 respondents said they had visited an emergency department in the past year, and one-third of those who used the ER said it was “the easiest place to get care.”

-- At least one-third of respondents said they had never heard of limited-network or tiered health insurance plans, which require people to use less expensive providers or pay more out of pocket if they see others that are more costly. Among those who were familiar with such plans, for every one person who favored the plans, two people described them as unfavorable.

-- All told, more than 8 in 10 people said they are at least somewhat satisfied with their health care, with 56 percent of respondents saying they are very satisfied. Those with more higher education and higher incomes were more likely to report being satisfied with their care.

See the full survey results on the Mass. Medical Society website.

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