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Many Would Give Health Plans Private Info to Save Money: Poll

Experts question whether people responding to Harris/HealthDay poll understand broader impact

NORWALK, Conn., (Nov. 13, 2013) -- Many Americans say they'd submit to insurance company medical tests and lifestyle monitoring in exchange for lower-cost premiums, a new Harris/HealthDay poll finds.

The poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults found that a majority would be "very willing" to have various tests and share the results with their health insurer -- provided there was a financial incentive, such as a lower monthly premium or smaller co-pays.

Many were even open to intrusive measures. Just over half said they'd agree to let their health plan monitor any exercise regimen they were using to lose excess pounds or control diabetes. What's more, nearly half said they'd undergo genetic tests to gauge their risks of "cancer or inherited medical conditions."

"You have to wonder to what extent people understand the implications of that," said Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, an assistant professor of medicine and medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Privacy has been a long-time concern with genetic testing, because employers or insurers could potentially discriminate against people at increased risk of a given disease.

In recent years, many U.S. companies that provide health insurance have started offering financial incentives. Workers who undergo blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar tests, or who join an exercise or disease-management program, can get a break on what they pay into their insurance. Some employers also base the financial reward on the results of those tests.

In the Harris/HealthDay poll, most people were open to those simpler types of tests. "This survey shows that there is a substantial opportunity for health plans to test and monitor the health status and health risk behaviors of health plan members, but that they would have to be extremely careful to avoid a potentially explosive backlash," said Harris Poll chairman Humphrey Taylor.

Blumenthal-Barby said the poll results raise concerns about how informed people are when it comes to genetic testing and privacy. She added, "People may just think about the money. They need to be a little cautious and read the fine print, too."

The poll included 2,033 Americans surveyed online between Oct. 21 and 23 by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms. HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of daily health news.

The complete findings of the newest joint Harris/HealthDay poll are available here. HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

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About HealthDay

HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is one of the largest health news syndicators to Internet sites. Its daily consumer health news service appears on more than 5,000 websites such as Yahoo!, MSN Health, USNews.com, Everyday Health, and government websites like Healthfinder.gov, and MedlinePlus. A daily video version of the top health news story of the day is featured on HealthDay TV, a 90-second daily news broadcast appearing on several major media and U.S. government websites.

HealthDay also produces Physician's Briefing, a daily news service for physicians and other medical professionals. This service is licensed to hospitals, managed care organizations, media companies and point of care providers.

HealthDay's custom content division produces specialized content for a variety of audiences and works with some of the larger health portals in the United States.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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