Between soaring health care costs, unknown implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Ebola, the country is experiencing no shortage of health care issues.
But Gallup aimed to dig deeper into the minds of Americans and find out what they considered to be the country’s “most urgent health problem.” This year’s results are based on Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, conducted Nov. 6-9. Here’s what they said.
Ten percent of consumers surveyed by Gallup cited cancer as the country’s biggest health concern.
Gallup reports that though cancer rarely has been a top-ranking issue, it has consistently appeared in the top three or four health problems in Americans’ minds. It almost always registers at least 10 percent, and reached a high of 23 percent in 1999.
Other specific diseases or health problems — including diabetes, heart disease, drug and alcohol abuse, flu, mental illness and AIDS — receive minimal mentions of 1 percent or 2 percent.
Obesity has emerged as a steady concern in recent years, including 16 percent mentioning it in 2012 after it gradually rose from 1 percent in 1999.
This year, 10 percent cited obesity as the country’s most urgent health issue.
According to Gallup numbers, the obesity rate among U.S. adults is the highest ever — now sitting at 27.7 percent. Obesity leads to higher rates of serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Ebola has been all over the news as of late, so it’s not much of a surprise that it newly joins the list of concerns for Americans. Nearly one in five — 17 percent — said it’s the country’s most urgent health issue. It was not a concern last year. At the time of the survey, Gallup said, only one of the four people who had been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States was still being treated, and the other two surviving patients had already been declared virus-free.
“Several U.S. health care workers who were infected abroad and flown to the U.S. for treatment had also recovered by the time of the survey, while the outbreak in West Africa seemed to be slowing,” Gallup reported. “Thus, it is a testament to the gravity of the Ebola virus that it still sparks relatively high public concern several weeks after the peak of the U.S. scare.”
But don’t expect Ebola to stay on the list next year.
Gallup said health scares have often made the list, only to disappear the next. For example, the bird flu scare made the list of concerns in 2005, as did the H1N1 virus in 2009. Bioterrorism was the top-ranking concern in 2001, mentioned by 22 percent of Americans as the nation was riveted by an ongoing anthrax attack, Gallup said, but it fell to 1 percent the next year.
Access has long been on the list of top health concerns for consumers: 18 percent this year said it was their top health concern.
Gallup said it’s been prominent on the list for more than a decade, and likely will remain so.
This finding comes as many report an ongoing doctor shortage for Americans.
1. Health care costs
Health care costs continue to be the No. 1 concern for American consumers: 19 percent cited it as the No. 1 issue this year. That’s down slightly from the 23 percent who said so last year.
Aon Hewitt projects that employer-paid premiums are increasing yet again with a 5.5 percent rise forecast for 2015, the biggest such increase in the last few years. Its analysis showed the average health care cost per employee is projected to jump to $11,304 per employee, from $10,717 in 2014. Employees will be asked to contribute 23.6 percent of the total health care premium, which equates to $2,664 for 2015. That’s up 7 percent from last year.
Gallup reports: “Meanwhile, a year after the Affordable Care Act began to offer all Americans health care through government health care exchanges, with discounts given to some based on financial need, nearly one in five Americans continue to name health care costs as the most urgent health problem facing the country, and a similar proportion name health care access.”