Poll: Public supports health care for all

WASHINGTON – An ABC News-Washington Post poll released Oct. 19 says the public’s growing anger with the current health care system has built support for a new approach that would guarantee care for all. The same poll says the public supports changes in laws governing prescription drugs.

Seventy percent of those polled said it should be legal to buy prescription drugs outside the United States.

The poll found 54 percent of those polled to be dissatisfied with the overall quality of health care, 10 percentage points higher than in 2000 and higher than it has been in the past decade when compared with earlier surveys.

While a solid majority of people tended to be happy with their own quality of health care, the poll found “significant concern with the system more broadly,” said ABC pollster Gary Langer, who directed the survey.

Those concerns included worries about future costs, declining coverage and the problems of people who lack insurance.

The poll found that 6 in 10 people surveyed say they are worried about being able to afford health insurance in the future. More than 1 in 6 said they have no insurance. The poll found that 53 percent of those who are insured say they are worried about losing their insurance because of loss of a job.

The percentage of those who have health insurance and are satisfied with the cost, 64 percent, has dropped by 9 percentage points since 1997. By almost a 2-1 margin those persons said they preferred a universal system that would provide coverage to everyone under a government program, as opposed to the current employer-based system. When people were asked the question slightly differently in a poll a year ago, they were less enthusiastic. Asked if they wanted a taxpayer-funded health care system run by the government, fewer than half said yes. The poll results show the public’s worries about health care have increased this year.

Robert Blendon, a specialist on health care public opinion at Harvard University, says, “Health care is really rising as a political issue. When the economy gets bad and health care costs continue to rise, this becomes an economic issue.”

Among the poll’s other findings:

• Eight in 10 in the poll said it is more important to provide health care coverage for all Americans even if it means higher taxes, than to hold down taxes but leave some people uncovered.

• Almost two-thirds said they think the country is headed toward rationing of health care so that some medical procedures are no longer covered by insurance.

• Almost one-third of those who make less than $20,000 a year were uninsured, compared with 8 percent of those who make more than $50,000 a year.

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Canadian health system expert to tour U.S.

Doug Allan, a Toronto-based trade union health care researcher and health coalition organizer, will be making a speaking tour of several U.S. cities this November. His topic will be “Lessons from Canada’s Public Health Care System: Trade Union and Community Coalition Unity.”

Allan is an authority on the Canadian health care system, particularly in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. A key focus of his work has been stopping the privatization of Canada’s health services. His tour is being sponsored by the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo. Look for him in the following cities: Philadelphia (11/9), Boston (11/10), Cleveland (11/14), and Detroit (11/16). See also his article in this week’s issue, on page 14.