The Thomson Reuters Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index found that confidence lost three percentage points from a baseline of 100 in December to 97 in March.
Strikingly, Americans expect the situation to worsen significantly in the next three months, said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters.
The thing I thought was interesting was ... the level of sentiment about future expectations worsened more. The future outlook seems to be causing the people we interviewed angst.
Thomson Reuters interviews more than 100,000 U.S. households annually via telephone surveys about healthcare behaviors, attitudes and utilization. This particular index is based in a subset of 3,000 people, representative of the nation as a whole, interviewed every month.
The survey, published here, finds a steady erosion in confidence.
I think it may have something to do with the reform legislation, Pickens said in a telephone interview. Getting legislation through hasn't reassured Americans, he added. People are being unclear about what it means for them.
Pickens said his team is now breaking down the survey by age, political affiliation and other factors to try to get more detail on who, precisely, is losing confidence the most.
What we saw last summer was a big difference by political party, he said. Republicans strongly opposed healthcare reform.
Pickens predicts older Americans may be among the most worried. I think I would have angst because of the prospect of significant cost cuts, cutbacks in federal programs including Medicare, he said.
In February, when the index fell to 98, a statistically significant number of people said they had delayed filling or did not fill a prescription in the past three months and expected to delay or cancel a diagnostic test in the next three months.
In March, more people said they had lost or reduced their health insurance coverage in the past three months or that they expected to delay or cancel an elective surgical procedure.