STATE — Health care choice is more important to New Jersey residents than health care costs, according to a new survey from the Monmouth University Polling Institute and the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.
Most insured New Jerseyans (56%) say that the range of available doctors and services is more important to them in choosing a health care plan than the plan’s premium and co-pay costs (33%). State residents covered by government plans such as Medicare or Medicaid (63%) are the most likely to say that the choice of doctors and services is more important.
Among those covered by an employer who provides a choice of plans, 53% say that the availability of doctors and services is more important than costs. Among those who purchase coverage on their own, 46% say that choice is more important compared to 38% who say that cost is more important in a health care plan.
“It is not surprising that New Jersey health care consumers care more about access and quality issues than they do cost, although cost is obviously a consideration” said David L. Knowlton, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “There are few things more important to individuals than their own health and they want to be able to select physicians and hospitals they know and trust.”
The Health Matters Poll also asked New Jerseyans which is the more important reason to carry health insurance: to pay for normal expenses like check-ups and prescriptions or to cover medical bills for severe illnesses and accidents. Unsurprisingly, most (70%) say that both reasons are equally important. However, when pushed to pick the more crucial reason, 68% say it is to cover illnesses and accidents compared to 28% who say that having coverage for normal preventive expenses is more important.
Among those who purchase insurance in the marketplace on their own, 81% say that the main reason to have coverage is for illnesses and accidents compared to just 12% who say that having coverage for preventive expenses is more important. Among parents of children under age 18, 38% say that having coverage for everyday medical expenses is more important. This is greater than the 23% of non-parents who feel the same. Still, majorities of parents (58%) and non-parents (73%) alike say it is more important to have health insurance coverage for major medical bills than for preventive care.
Half (50%) of New Jerseyans get their insurance coverage through an employer, and nearly two-thirds (64%) of this group report that their employer provides a choice of different plans. About 1-in-4 (24%) New Jersey adults get insurance coverage through a government plan, 6% purchase insurance coverage on their own, and 5% are covered by their parents’ plan or at school. Another 13% report that they do not have coverage.
Among New Jerseyans who do not have government provided health coverage, 48% say that they would prefer to have more comprehensive health benefits at the expense of lower wages while 42% say that they would sacrifice health benefits for higher wages. Among those who currently purchase health coverage on their own, 61% would give up some of their wages to get better health benefits.
Among those who currently carry no coverage, 50% would stick with higher wages over health benefits. Among New Jerseyans who earn less than $50,000 a year, 64% say they would give up some wages in order to get better health coverage. This compares to 46% of those earning $50,000 or more who feel the same.
Among New Jersey residents under the age of 65 who get health coverage through an employer, 49% say they would accept lower wages for better health benefits and 44% say they would accept fewer health benefits to earn higher wages. Garden State views differ from national opinion on this. A Kaiser Health Tracking Survey conducted in June 2013 found that 53% of Americans under age 65 with employer coverage wanted higher wages at the expense of better health benefits compared to 39% who said they would prefer to give up some wages in order to get more comprehensive health coverage.
“The fact that working New Jerseyans are more willing than other Americans to give up some pay in order to get better health coverage is an indication of the burden posed by health care in this high-cost state,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The Health Matters Poll also found that Garden State opinion of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has become decidedly negative since September. Currently 40% of New Jerseyans have a favorable view and 50% have an unfavorable view of the health care reforms. This represents a reversal of the 45% favorable to 40% unfavorable opinion recorded three months ago. Still, Garden State views on the ACA remain somewhat more positive than national opinion, which was measured at 33% favorable to 49% unfavorable among all Americans in a Kaiser Health Tracking Survey conducted in November.
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