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Americans' Confidence in the Medical System on the Rebound

Americans' Confidence in the Medical System on the Rebound

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Providing a benchmark as America's new healthcare reform law begins to take effect, 40% of Americans express "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the U.S. medical system, the highest percentage since 2005. Americans' confidence in the medical system hit a low of 31% in 2007, at a time when confidence across almost all institutions was down, but has been steadily rebounding in the years since.

Confidence in Institutions, 1993-2010: The Medical System

The medical system ranks fifth out of 16 institutions tested in Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions poll, faring better than the U.S. Supreme Court and the presidency but inspiring confidence from less than half of all Americans. Americans' confidence in the medical system has now returned to the general levels found between 1995 and 2006, although still below the high point of 44% confidence in 2003 and 2004.

Americans' Confidence in HMOs Remains in Low Range

Americans' confidence in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) is less than half that of the medical system as a whole, and exceeds only confidence in Congress among the 16 institutions tested in this year's poll. While low on an absolute basis, the 19% who express a high level of confidence in HMOs is the highest Gallup has measured for this institution, though not significantly better than last year's 18%.

Confidence in Institutions, 1999-2010: Health Maintenance Organizations

At the same time, 32% have "very little" or no confidence in HMOs, a new low.

Bottom Line

Gallup's most recent measures of Americans' confidence in the medical system and HMOs come nearly four months after President Obama signed the new health reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, into law. Major provisions that will affect the way health insurance plans work, including the elimination of lifetime limits on coverage and prohibiting insurance companies from rescinding coverage, have yet to be implemented. These changes and others could have a significant impact on Americans' perceptions of HMOs and the medical system as a whole.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-11, 2010, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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