Skyrocketing health care costs seem to be making some U.S. consumers more sympathetic to the concept of managed care.[@@]

Claudia Schur, a research scientist with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, presented new survey data supporting that conclusion today in Washington.

“The managed care backlash is easing up, probably because consumers are feeling the pinch of rising costs themselves,” Schur said. “However, support for managed care practices is quite segmented, depending on each consumer’s health care experience and needs.”

Schur and other colleagues who conducted the survey found that only 30% of all survey respondents said gatekeeper referrals, drug substitution, prior approval expensive procedures and other managed care strategies can keep health care costs down without hurting patients’ health.

But “who you are matters,” Schur said. She reported that lower-income consumers seem to be more willing to accept limitations on coverage in exchange for lower costs.

As a result, “we may see more plan offerings where consumers who want choice can pay for it, while those willing to accept limits on their care can pay less,” Schur said.

Tight care management policies eased several years ago amidst public outcry about the effects on care.

Today, despite lingering skepticism about the effects of managed care, “there is no blanket refusal,” Schur said. “I think there’s a clear willingness to consider managed care.”

The NORC survey was backed by the California Healthcare Foundation, Oakland, Calif., and published by Health Affairs, a health economics journal.

In related news, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, has released results of a survey that suggest that many Americans are still skeptical about the value of care management.

Although 68% of the 1,000 U.S. adults polled in early November said the government should assure access to health coverage for every American, and 63% said Congress should slow down the steep rise in health care costs, only 24% said they would like to see greater emphasis on care management.

Consumers were more sympathetic to the argument that fraud and abuse are to blame for increases in health care costs: 56% said Congress should make reducing health care fraud and abuse a top health care priority, and 31% said they would like to see partnerships with law enforcement to combat health care fraud and abuse.