New Jerseyans would prefer better access to health care than lower health care costs according to a new "Health Matters" survey by Monmouth University and the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute

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"Fifty-six percent of New Jerseyans prefer to have a better range of available doctors and services in their health care plan than have their premiums and co-pays lowered," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Garden State residents covered by government plans are the most likely (63 percent) to say the choice of doctors and services is more important. Among those covered by an employer who provides a choice of plans, 53 percent say that the availability of doctors and services is more important than costs. Among those who purchase coverage on their own, 46 percent say that choice is more important compared to 38 percent who say that cost is more important in a health care plan.

"It is not surprising that New Jersey health care consumers care more about access and quality issues than they do cost, although cost is obviously a consideration" said David Knowlton, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. "There are few things more important to individuals than their own health and they want to be able to select physicians and hospitals they know and trust."

The survey also found that New Jersey residents are ready to put their money where their mouth is.

Forty-eight percent said that they would prefer to have more comprehensive health benefits at the expense of lowering their wages versus 42 percent who said that they would sacrifice health benefits for higher wages.

"I think it's fascinating because New Jersey is such a high cost state that you'd think people would keep as much money in their paycheck as possible, but people are looking ahead and saying, 'If tragedy strikes I need access to the best care and I wouldn't be able to afford it unless my health care plan provides a wide range of coverage,'" said Murray.

The poll also asked New Jerseyans which is the more important reason to carry health insurance: to pay for normal expenses like check-ups and prescriptions or to cover medical bills for severe illnesses and accidents. Almost 70 percent said that both reasons are equally important, when pushed to pick the more crucial reason, 68 percent said it is to cover illnesses and accidents compared to 28 percent who said that having coverage for normal preventive expenses is more important.

Affordable Care Act

Opinions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have turned negative since September.  Four-in-ten New Jersey residents have a favorable view, and exactly half have an unfavorable view of the health care reforms. This is a reversal of the 45 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable opinion recorded three months ago.

However, Garden State views on the ACA are still more positive than national opinion, which was measured at 33 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable among all Americans in a November Kaiser Health Tracking Survey.