Managed care still unpopular

January 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The backlash against managed care peaked in 2000 and has declined somewhat since then, according to a new survey by Harris Interactive.

The backlash against managed care peaked in 2000 and has declined somewhat since then, according to a new survey by Rochester, NY-based Harris Interactive. The survey was conducted through nationwide telephone interviews of 1,011 adults conducted between Sept. 19 and 23, 2002.

Results of the survey show a modest decline in the number of participants who are critical of managed care on two separate issues:

•Â The proportion of participants who believe the trend toward managed care is a "bad thing" has declined from 52% in 2000 to 44% in 2002 (while the proportion who think it is a "good thing" remains virtually unchanged at 36%).

•Â Those who believe that managed care will "harm the quality of medical care" have declined in number from 59% in 2000 to 51% in 2002, but this change does not mean more people think it will improve the quality of medical care. Rather, an increasing number of participants don't think managed care makes a difference or are not sure (22% in 2002 vs. 12% in 2000).

Confused consumers

While the fact that fewer people think managed care is a bad thing is moderately good news for the managed care industry, the survey did not find any improvement on the issue of cost containment. A 50%-to-34% majority believes managed care will not help contain costs. While this gap (of 14 percentage points) is relatively unchanged since 2000 (when a 53%-to-39% plurality felt this way), there has been an increase in participants who are not sure, from 8% in 2000 to 16% in 2002. According to Harris, the results of the survey show that hostility toward managed care has declined, not because the industry has made new friends, but because more people are not sure what to think.

"This modest trend probably reflects a decline in physician hostility toward managed care (right now reductions in Medicare fees are probably their top issue) and that, as a result, there are far fewer demonization stories in the media," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "It may also have been helped by current concerns about prescription drug prices and, more recently, increased hospital fees."

Continuing trends

Executives at Harris concluded that, because the healthcare spotlight has moved away from managed care to prescription drug costs, and because the country is focused on terrorism and the possibility of war with Iraq, the trends shown in the survey are likely to continue.

Commented Taylor, "In the short and medium term, the backlash against health insurance and managed care will probably continue its modest decline." PR

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