ASHEVILLE - A new Meredith Poll of more than 1,000 North Carolina residents took the statewide temperature on attitudes about health insurance and reported Western N.C. residents are somewhat neutral or positive about their coverage.
The poll, conducted between Oct. 17-Nov. 2 and published Nov. 15, surveyed 199 people who said they lived in the WNC region, including Asheville. It was created as a collaboration between the Meredith Poll and the North Carolina Center for Health and Democracy. This is the first Meredith Poll on health insurance, according to its founder and director, David McLennan, professor of political science at Raleigh-based Meredith College.
Founded in 2015, the poll tackles a range of civic and political public issues.
Statewide, the poll surveyed 1,012 people and is emphasizing a key finding about whether or not people are content with their health insurance provider.
“While North Carolinians are mostly satisfied with their current health insurance provider, just 8.3% of North Carolinians feel their health insurer has their best interest in mind,” the poll stated.
“In addition, the study found that North Carolinians blame health insurance companies more than any other part of the healthcare system for the rising costs of healthcare (23.7 %). Every demographic group surveyed had health insurance companies as the top reason for these rising costs.”
According to the poll, WNC residents specifically had a range of perspectives on whether or not insurance companies had their best interest in mind:
13.4% of WNC residents strongly disagreed health insurance companies had their best interests in mind.
18.9% of WNC residents disagreed health insurance companies had their best interests in mind.
27.6% of WNC residents were neutral when asked if health insurance companies had their best interests in mind.
21.3% of WNC residents agreed health insurance companies had their best interests in mind.
18.9% of WNC residents strongly agreed health insurance companies had their best interests in mind.
In another portion of the poll, 70.7% of WNC respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their current health insurance provider.
Asked what parts of the poll stood out the most to him, McLellan pointed to several elements, including how a bad experience with a healthcare provider could affect how people viewed their insurance.
“The level of dissatisfaction for people who have a negative interaction with their insurance provider was really important,” he said in an interview.
He also emphasized a statewide sentiment on diversity of insurance options, a matter that is core to lawsuits against HCA Healthcare-owned Mission Health in WNC: Plaintiffs in those cases say HCA has a local monopoly that is restricting trade and ballooning health insurance prices while limiting options.
“People don't feel like they have a lot of options, particularly through their employer,” McLennan said, referencing poll results. “That seems to be sort of the general sentiment. I think for the Center for Health and Democracy, they're interested in that question about providing more options for people here in North Carolina, either through employers or through the private exchanges.”
More than 42% of those surveyed said their private health insurance was the only option provided by their employer and only 26% reported being very satisfied, according to the results.
In WNC, 29.1% of those surveyed get insurance through their employers. Nearly as many, 28.6%, get health insurance through Medicare.
Additionally, the company in WNC providing the most health insurance by far is Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina: 46.9% of surveyed WNC respondents said they had BCBSNC.
The Center for Health and Democracy’s founder and former Cigna executive Wendell Potter said the survey results point to ingrained, systemic issues that impact the livelihoods of insurance consumers.
“The Meredith Poll findings show us that North Carolina’s insurance companies consistently put up roadblocks to care and rely on a complicated process to maximize profits and reduce care for patients. Their strategy — denying millions of in-network claims in North Carolina annually and raising premiums while recording record profits — is why I left the health insurance industry more than a decade ago,” Potter said. “Their greed-driven actions have life or death consequences, and it’s time to shine a light on this broken system.”
Andrew Jones is an investigative reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or email@example.com. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Poll shows how 200 Western NC residents feel about health insurance