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Majority of Americans now hold negative view of US health care, Gallup finds

FILE - A patient under treatment lies on a bed in the emergency ward March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
FILE - A patient under treatment lies on a bed in the emergency ward March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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A majority of Americans have a negative view of the quality of U.S. health care, according to Gallup.

Gallup has been surveying the public's sentiment on health care for two decades, and this is the first time fewer than half of respondents rated our health care system as "excellent" or "good."

This year, a slight majority rated the nation’s health care as either "only fair" or "poor."

“It's just a little bit grimmer picture of Americans’ view of U.S. health care,” said Lydia Saad, director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup.

The latest survey, released last week but conducted in November and December, shows 48% of people rate U.S. health care “excellent” or “good.”

The high mark was 62% in the early 2010s.

There are divisions among respondents based on political affiliation and age.

Younger people hold a more negative view of U.S. health care, which Saad suspects is tied to cost concerns.

Gallup says public satisfaction with the total cost of health care in the U.S. is fairly typical of what it has been over the past two decades, with just 24% satisfied and 76% dissatisfied.

Republicans are less satisfied with U.S. health care since President Joe Biden took office, and that change is largely responsible for driving down the overall level of satisfaction.

Democratic satisfaction hasn’t risen in order to counterbalance the drop in Republican sentiment, Saad said.

Republicans have long held a more positive view of U.S. health care quality than their Democratic counterparts, Saad said.

Republicans have generally been more in favor of free-market health care over government-backed universal health care, she said.

Republicans’ views of health care quality dropped in 2014 after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act before rebounding after President Donald Trump took office.

Republicans, she noted, were also more positive about health care when President George W. Bush was in office.

Positive sentiment among Republicans has reached as high as 75% over the years, whereas Democrats have more steadily held a more negative view of U.S. health care.

Democrats’ positive outlook peaked at just 58% over the years.

This year, 56% of Republicans rated U.S. health care as “excellent” or “good.” Only 44% of Democrats said the same.

It’s clear that sentiment is swayed by social-political issues, though Saad said it’s “a complex kind of puzzle” to discern just what factors are driving the biggest changes.

Issues such as pandemic-era mask mandates or the Supreme Court’s ruling impacting abortion access are likely influencing how people view the nation’s health care quality.

But people are more satisfied with their personal care, with 72% giving it excellent or good marks.

Saad said the divergence between how people view the system and how they view their personal experiences isn’t unique to health care. The same thing happens when people are asked about crime or schools, she said.

“People are always more critical in their perceptions of what's going on in the country than what's going on in their personal life,” she said, “To which, to some extent, they can control their personal life. If you don't like your doctor, (if) you don't like your school, you can change.”

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