Local consumer engagement in health care

Local consumer engagement in health care linked to understanding of health care reform efforts

BUFFALO, N.Y. (October 10, 2011) - Western New York consumers appear well-prepared to continue their role in the national health care reform effort by taking charge of their personal health, based on two recent studies.

The DSS Health Care Engagement Index™ (www.dssresearch.com) finds Western New Yorkers are more fully engaged or involved in their health care than typical health plan members nationally by approximately 38 percent. Further, the DSS findings indicate the proportion of Independent Health customers designated as “engaged” or “involved” in their health care is larger than competitive carriers’ customers by about 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Another study on health care reform, sponsored by Independent Health and conducted by Thoroughbred Research Group, found Western New Yorkers increasingly realize the impact of unhealthy behaviors on overall health care costs. Of commercial consumers polled, 65.3 percent cite unhealthy lifestyles as having an impact on rising costs. One year earlier, 58.2 percent believed unhealthy lifestyles affected costs.

“These findings are very encouraging,” said Michael Cropp, M.D., president and CEO, Independent Health. “As the health care law continues its role in the national discussion leading up to the November 2012 elections, Western New Yorkers have shown an increased understanding of the responsibility every consumer has in changing the course of health care costs.”

The survey results also draw parallels between Western New Yorkers’ understanding of health care reform and their understanding of the role of consumers in the health care system. Those who say they understand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) provisions are also more likely to acknowledge the responsibility of consumers to maintain their own health – a key component to lowering health care utilization and costs. Of commercial consumers who understand the health care reform law, 70.5 percent believe consumers are partly responsible for “fixing” health care, compared with 43.5 percent among those who say they don’t know much about health care reform.

This annual survey aims to gauge Western New Yorkers’ reactions to health care reform and their perceptions on the role of various participants within the reform effort.

Other key findings include:

▪Western New Yorkers who understand PPACA are more likely to have a favorable opinion of reform. Of those who rated their knowledge of health reform at the seven to 10 level, 64.8 percent had a favorable opinion of reform, compared with 36.8 percent who rated their knowledge in the one to six range (with 10 being the highest and one being the lowest).

▪Health insurers continue to be seen as the party most responsible for “fixing” health care among commercial consumers (74.3 percent) and Medicare beneficiaries (64.6 percent), followed closely by government (73.4 percent and 62.6 percent, respectively).

▪Commercial consumers in particular are increasingly looking to businesses/employers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies to “fix” health care. Perception of the responsibility of these groups increased from the 2010 survey by an average of about 22 percent.

▪Of those who understand the health reform law, 79.5 percent say it’s important to use electronic medical records, compared to 60.1 percent among those who aren’t confident in their knowledge of health care reform.

▪Sixty-one percent of all survey respondents say they want to know more about PPACA. The top three topics of interest include the Medicare prescription coverage gap, access to preventive screenings and financial help to low-income individuals who don’t have insurance through their job.

Survey results also indicate Independent Health is seen as taking the lead to deliver affordable, quality care and the health plan offering the most health promotion and fitness activities to better the community.

“We continue to focus on empowering consumers by offering products, services and programs that enable them to become more engaged in their health. We’re also continuing to partner with physicians on programs that reward quality outcomes, rather than volume of services, thus changing the health care paradigm from reactive care to proactive care. In essence, we’re moving from health insurance to health assurance,” said Dr. Cropp.

“While national reform efforts remain a vital part of reshaping health care, the most sustainable solutions will take place at the local level. Western New York must continue to make progress toward improving the health and wellness of our community by engaging in collaborative initiatives that improve the quality of health care and reduce cost,” said Dr. Cropp. “We all have a role to play in creating a culture of health in Western New York.”

DSS Research is a national marketing research firm specializing in health care. Over the past 27 years, DSS has conducted research and provided insight for health insurance organizations, hospitals and other health care providers across the country. The firm’s services include product development services, satisfaction research, brand analysis and strategy research, ad testing and tracking, market segmentation research and health risk assessment, giving DSS a high-level view of the evolving health insurance business. DSS employs more than 200 health care market research specialists. More information is available at www.dssresearch.com.

The Independent Health-sponsored survey included 500 telephone interviews, conducted by Thoroughbred Research Group of Louisville, Ky., of local consumers of commercial and Medicare health plans, with the data weighted to better represent the local population. The interviews were conducted from April 28 through May 2, 2011.

Thoroughbred Research Group is an employee-owned company headquartered in Louisville, Ky. For more than 30 years it has worked with clients in a collaborative spirit to deliver Preemptive, Proactive and Projective™ business critical research to a wide range of public and private enterprises. National in scope, personal in delivery, Thoroughbred Research Group has expertise in all types of data collection, web-enabled research, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, analysis and consulting. More information is available at www.torinc.net.

Headquartered in Buffalo, Independent Health began operations in 1980 and has consistently been rated among the top health plans in the country for customer service and member satisfaction. Independent Health’s comprehensive portfolio of product and service offerings include HMO, POS, PPO and EPO products, Medicare and Medicaid plans, traditional indemnity insurance, consumer-directed plans, coverage for self-funded employers, plus health savings account (HSA) and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services. Independent Health’s extensive provider networks include more than 846,000 physicians, 3,700 hospitals, and 53,000 pharmacies nationally. Combined, the company provides health benefits and services to nearly 375,000 individuals in Western New York and throughout the country. For more information, visit Independent Health’s website at www.independenthealth.com.

NOTE: All results are subject to a sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone and a scientific sample. The sampling error for this 500-consumer sample is 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 50 percent of Western New York consumers favored a particular policy, one would be 95 percent confident that interval of 45.6 to 54.4 percent contained the true figure had all Western New York consumers been interviewed.