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Access to care leads Americans' priorities in first-ever public study of health value

WASHINGTON, DC (May 12, 2009) When Americans were asked to value the most important of dozens of health products and services as they consider spending their own money, they chose access to care over everything else, a new study revealed.

The Spectrum Health Value Study, the first publicly available longitudinal study of its kind, queried a representative sample of Americans over the past six months on the value of health services, products or programs from a personal financial decision-making perspective. The study's sponsor, Spectrum, a Washington, DC-based health and science communications firm, released results of the first two waves of data collection as the national dialogue on health care reform gains momentum. Conducted by New York-based Russell Research in conjunction with Spectrum, the ongoing online study requires respondents to make a series of choices among a standard list of 27 services and products.

Respondents overwhelmingly identified access to physician services, medical services at a hospital and emergency care services, in that order, as their highest valued health priorities. The least valued health services included psychiatric services, vocational rehabilitation, services for mental retardation and substance abuse.

"Health reformers cannot afford to overlook how everyday constituents, when faced with difficult trade-offs, place a relative value on health services and products as they would spend their own money," said John J. Seng, president and CEO of Spectrum in explaining the health consulting firm's interest in conducting the study. "With this new information, a vital piece of the health reform debate falls into place," added Seng.

"We learned that most Americans agree that they contribute in some way or another to resources for health care, and when considering how they would spend their money, it's all about access to care," said Audrey Spolarich, Spectrum's senior advisor for research. "Americans ranked access significantly higher than all other products and services, such as preventive health care or mental health care," added Spolarich.

The Spectrum Health Value Study detailed findings may be found at Spectrum plans to continue querying samples of Americans on their health values and make available findings on a quarterly basis.

Additional Study findings:

  • 69 percent agreed that the cost of health care benefits and services are ultimately paid for by individuals who contribute in various ways.
  • The number of persons with health insurance coverage dropped from 82 percent in January 2009 to 74 percent in April.
  • The percentage of people using products and services on a regular basis has generally fallen between January and April.
  • Also of note, in light of the recent H1N1 outbreak, Americans placed nominal value on the emergency relief and preventive services.
  • While Americans value preventive health services strongly, they do not use them on a regular basis and when they do use them they are not very satisfied with the quality of preventive health services.
  • Despite the attention being raised around the obesity epidemic, Americans neither value nor use nutrition services. When they are used, they are not considered very satisfactory.


Contact: Kara McCollum

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