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Media Memo: Health Care Reform Campus Experts

TO: News Editors and Directors

FROM: Judy Berthiaume, Director

DATE: Sept. 11, 2009

SUBJECT: Health Care Reform — Campus Experts

Members of a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty research team who have conducted research about health care reform are available to talk with the news media about their research and findings.

The research team has conducted two studies focusing on health care coverage, health care concerns and health care reform.

The research team's 2008 study examined the level of health care coverage and health care concerns among a sample of 222 residents of west central Wisconsin. The researchers found that more than 90 percent of the respondents said it is extremely or very important for Wisconsin to make health care more affordable and accessible for all residents. While there were some differences between the insured and uninsured, the call for reform was significant among both groups, researchers concluded.

"Our research confirms there is broad support for health care reform among our respondents in terms of government action to improve access and control costs," the researchers stated in an article in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. "Whereas the majority of respondents believe that addressing the issues of the uninsured is important, concern over the rising cost of health care seems to have trumped all. Residents are looking to the government to address the issue of affordability, regardless of their current health care coverage status."

Specific findings from the research include:

  • More than 68 percent of respondents felt Wisconsin health care has at least major problems and only 2.7 percent said there were no problems.
  • Approximately 60 percent of the respondents were extremely or very worried about not being able to afford health care services.
  • More than 70 percent of the respondents were extremely or very worried that insurance companies care more about profits than patients.

Following the 2008 study, the research team contacted 18 of the 222 study participants who had indicated when surveyed that they were willing to be interviewed about their health care experiences. Participants included people who were insured, underinsured or uninsured.

Through the interview process, researchers learned that access and affordability were primary determinants in obtaining health care. The uninsured in the sample described their access to the health care system as random and episodic, the research team found. The uninsured also lack routine preventative care and timely diagnosis of screenable conditions.

Even those with insurance expressed concerns that their health care needs would not be met, the research team said. Concerns about high cost-sharing, out-of-pocket costs and restrictions in coverage were among their concerns. Medical debt was a significant concern that resulted in skipped diagnostic tests, unfilled prescriptions or lack of specialty care.

The researchers also learned from participants that the health care issues influence their life choices, particularly when it comes to employment options or retirement. "We have to make life decisions based on opportunities and aspirations and not be tied to jobs by the need for health insurance," one study participant told researchers.

"Participants in this study perceived that the current system for health care insurance creates uncertainties that can turn into disasters for individuals and families," the research team states in an article titled "Consequences of Uninsurance in Wisconsin" in the current issue of the Wisconsin Medical Journal. "The survey component of this research documented that more than 90 percent of the participants favored a system to make health care universally accessible and affordable. These qualitative findings provide further evidence of public support for universal health care."

Research team members available to talk with the media are:

  • Dr. Jennifer Johs-Artisensi, assistant professor of management and marketing, 715-836-3589, johsarjl@uwec.edu.
  • Dr. Eric Jamelske, associate professor of economics, 715-836-3254, jamelsem@uwec.edu.
  • Dr. Lois Taft, professor emerita of nursing, 847-733-0114 or 847-420-1330.
  • Katherine German-Olson, clinical instructor of nursing, 715-836-5000, germanka@uwec.edu.
  • Cindy Wold-Schmidt, graduate student in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, woldtscl@uwec.edu.

Articles about the UW-Eau Claire research team's study and findings can be found in:

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