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Survey addresses health care worries

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

While many Americans see war and foreign policy as the most important problem the government faces today, possibly because of the constant barrage of media coverage, those same Americans rate health care issues a close second.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation's July/August Health Poll Report tracking survey, among those surveyed, 28 percent said war and foreign policy was the number one issue of concern. Twenty-two percent said health care was the most important concern.

Other issues those Americans surveyed cited as important were: terrorism (9 percent); tax and budget issues (6 percent); education (5 percent); and crime (3 percent).

The survey also addressed seven specific health care issues and questioned respondents of all ages on each. The issues included: assuring the smooth implementation of the new Medicare drug benefit; reforming the medical malpractice system; reforming the Medicaid system; reducing medical errors or mistakes; lowering the cost of prescription drugs; lowering the cost of health insurance; and increasing the number of Americans covered by health insurance.

Understandably, those issues that affect older Americans were more important to older survey participants. For instance, seniors - who historically take more prescription drugs than younger individuals - said lowering the cost of prescription drugs was very important. One-quarter of the seniors surveyed cited that issue as most important while an average of only 14 percent of those ages 18-64 cited this as the most important health issue.

On the other hand, younger respondents (an average of 28 percent of those age 18-64) said lowering the cost of health insurance is their major health concern among the topics discussed. Only 12 percent of seniors 65 and over saw health insurance costs as most important.

Views on the most important issues for the government to address were also broken down by gender, insurance status, political party and race.

Based on a national random sample of 1,205 adults, the survey was conducted from Aug. 4-8. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent. The Kaiser Health Poll Report provides ongoing tracking of public opinion in three key areas: health care worries, health care priorities and attention to health news. The report is based on data from a bimonthly national random sample survey designed and analyzed by researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For more coverage of the health care crisis in Texas, visit KERA's Life in the Balance page.