PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the passage of highly publicized healthcare legislation into law in March, Americans are no less concerned about paying the costs of a serious illness or accident, or normal healthcare costs, than they were last year. Sixty-one percent are worried about the former, and 48% are worried about the latter.
Most of the actual impact of the comprehensive healthcare legislation will not be felt for months or years, with few specific short-term changes in the nation's healthcare system. Gallup research conducted after the bill's passage showed that the majority of Americans were not expecting the law to improve their personal healthcare cost situations, even in the long term. Still, the high visibility of the new law -- and the fact that a substantial minority of Americans favored its passage -- might have been expected to tilt Americans' worries or concerns about healthcare-related financial matters in at least a marginally more positive direction. But Gallup finds no such shift to date.
The healthcare issues constitute two of eight financial matters Gallup asked about in its annual Economy and Finance survey. Americans are most concerned about having enough money for retirement, followed by concern about unexpected medical costs, maintaining one's standard of living, and paying normal medical costs.
Americans became relatively more confident in the U.S. economy at about this time last year, but neither Gallup's April 2009 survey nor the current April 2010 survey reflects any evidence of a concomitant decrease in worry about these eight financial matters.
From a longer-term perspective, Americans' concerns about the financial issues tested by Gallup each year since 2001 rose during the middle of the last decade, and have remained high since that time. Concern over retirement, at the top of list of concerns today, has gone from 52% worry in 2004 to 66% now; concern over not being able to maintain one's standard of living has risen from 35% in 2002 to 54% today.
One of the major objectives of the new healthcare bill was to address healthcare costs in the U.S., as reflected in the bill's official name, "Affordable Healthcare for America Act." Proponents of the bill certainly may have expected that over time, Americans would become less worried about healthcare costs as a result of the legislation. In the short term, that has not happened.
More generally, the lack of improvement on any of the eight financial concerns tested in this research comes despite positive signs on the economic front. Gallup's economic tracking data find that American workers see more hiring at their places of employment, and that overall underemployment across the country has fallen.
Economic confidence is also higher now than it was in the depths of the recession in late 2008 and early 2009. Nonetheless, there has been only a modest increase in Gallup's measure of consumer spending -- which may reflect the finding that Americans remain as concerned about a number of personal financial issues as they have been over the last several years.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,020 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 8-11, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.