In U.S., More Than 8 in 10 Rate Nurses, Doctors Highly

by Elizabeth Mendes

Health insurance companies receive highest poor rating

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans rate nurses and doctors the best of eight different healthcare providers in the U.S., with more than 8 in 10 saying the medical care they provide is excellent or good. The other six entities measured are institutions. Of these, nursing homes get the lowest positive rating (33%), partly because one in six Americans don't have an opinion of them, while health insurance companies get the highest percentage of "poor" ratings.

Ratings of Medical Care (% Excellent/Good) Provided by Aspects of the U.S. Healthcare System, November 2010

Other than nurses and doctors, Americans are the most positive about hospitals, followed by hospital emergency rooms, pharmaceutical companies, and walk-in clinics.

Even though health insurance companies have the highest percentage of "poor" ratings, 42% of Americans rate the medical services they provide as excellent or good. This may be higher than one would expect, given the negative press surrounding health insurance companies during much of 2009 and 2010, as the new healthcare law moved through the legislative process.

These results are from Gallup's annual Health and Healthcare Survey, conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010. Gallup asked this question once before, in November 2003, but the ratings of each of the eight aspects have not changed dramatically from that time. Americans in 2010 also rated nurses the most honest and ethical of several professions for the 11th year.

Republicans, Seniors Give Health Insurance Companies Higher Ratings

While Americans, regardless of political party, rate nurses and doctors the best on the list, Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to rate the medical services health insurance companies provide as excellent or good -- 63% vs. 28%. Independents, at 39%, are significantly less likely than Republicans to give health insurance companies positive reviews.

Republicans also rate pharmaceutical companies more positively than do Democrats.

Ratings of Medical Care (% Excellent/Good) Provided by Aspects of the U.S. Healthcare System, by Party, November 2010

The partisan differences may in part reflect ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats regarding the role of health insurance companies in the United States.

There is also a significant difference in ratings of health insurance companies by age. Americans aged 18 to 44 are the least likely to rate health insurance companies as excellent or good, with 34% doing so. Seniors, at 66%, are significantly more likely than any other age group to rate health insurance companies this highly.

Seniors in general rate most of the eight aspects more highly than do Americans in other age groups. The only provider that less than 50% of seniors rate as excellent or good is nursing homes.

Ratings of Medical Care (% Excellent/Good) Provided by Aspects of the U.S. Healthcare System, by Age, November 2010

Seniors are also more likely to be insured and to get their health insurance through Medicare, the U.S. government's health insurance program for Americans aged 65 and older.

Americans who have health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid are slightly more likely to give positive ratings to health insurance companies than are those who have private health insurance.

Ratings of Medical Care Provided by Health Insurance Companies, by Coverage Type, November 2010

Bottom Line

Over the next few years, the new healthcare law -- if it remains in its current form -- will require numerous changes to the health insurance system, and millions more Americans will gain access to care. Whether perceptions toward health providers improve in the coming years will be a big test for the law, which seeks to "end some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry." Gallup's current ratings of healthcare providers give a solid baseline from which to detect changes in Americans' views on specific aspects of the U.S. healthcare system, even as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in the coming years. There has been little change in these ratings over the past seven years.

It is clear, however, that Americans are currently and have in the past been highly satisfied with the care that nurses and doctors provide, and are largely satisfied with hospital care. The divergence between Americans' more positive ratings of actual healthcare providers -- doctors, nurses, and hospitals -- and lower ratings of health insurance companies suggests that the latter could face the most significant public opinion challenges in the changing healthcare environment.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010, with a random sample of 510 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on this total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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