U.S. Trails Canada, Britain in Healthcare Ratings

by Coleen McMurray, Senior Staff Writer

Views on the quality and cost of healthcare vary greatly among residents in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, according to Gallup Polls* recently conducted in those countries. A majority of Canadians (61%) and nearly half of Britons (48%) are either "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with the availability of affordable healthcare in their countries. However, in the United States, the only country of the three that does not have a publicly funded healthcare system, less than a third of residents (27%) are satisfied with the availability of affordable healthcare.

Americans also rate the quality of healthcare in their country lower than Britons or Canadians do. A slight majority of Americans (51%) are currently either very or somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of medical care in the United States, while just 48% are satisfied. In Canada and Great Britain, the reverse is true. Fifty-five percent of Canadians are satisfied with the quality of medical care in the nation and 43% are dissatisfied. Fifty-eight percent of British adults are satisfied, while 41% are dissatisfied.

In Great Britain, satisfaction with the quality of medical care has increased substantially in the last year -- from 46% in February/March 2003 to 58% in April/May 2004. Satisfaction with the availability of affordable healthcare has also increased slightly among British adults, from 43% to 48%. These increases coincide with increases in satisfaction with several other aspects of life in Great Britain.

Age Differences

In Canada, there is a distinct age gap among people's views about the availability of affordable healthcare. Seventy-two percent of Canadians under the age of 30 are satisfied, compared with just 50% of those aged 65 and older. In the United States, the age gap is less distinct, but those under 30 are more likely to express satisfaction than those aged 30 or older. In Great Britain, the oldest and youngest are similarly satisfied: 53% of those aged 18 to 34 are satisfied, as are 50% of those 65 and older. However, Britons between the ages of 35 and 64 are somewhat less satisfied than those in the youngest or oldest groups: 44% of those aged 35 to 64 are satisfied.

In the United States and Canada, 18- to 29-year-olds are the most satisfied with the quality of medical care in their countries. In the United States, 61% of 18- to 29-year-olds are satisfied, compared with 45% of those 30 to 49, 42% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 49% of those 65 and older. Among Canadians, 67% of those aged 18 to 29 are satisfied with the quality of care, compared with 54% of those aged 30 to 49, 49% of those 50 to 64, and 54% of those 65 and older. Britons' response patterns on this question are similar to those for the question on affordability: The oldest and youngest Britons are equally satisfied, while the 35- to 64-year-olds are less satisfied than the younger or older groups.

Bottom Line

U.S. adults are now far less sanguine about the current state of healthcare in their nation than are Britons or Canadians. However, a key provision of the Medicare reform package being implemented in the United States -- the distribution of prescription drug discount cards for Medicare recipients -- went into effect last week. While this reform should provide some relief for American seniors, it remains to be seen whether this and other Medicare changes will alter Americans' relatively low opinions of their medical system in the years to come.

*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with 1,004 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 12-15, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup USA.

Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 28-May 4, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.

Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 29-May 12, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.  The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.

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.


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