HMO REFORM: Still High On Voters’ List Of Concerns
A Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University Public Opinion Update survey released today shows that managed care reform remains high on the list of voters' priorities as the 1998 mid-term elections approach. Regulating HMOs and other health plans was cited by 34% of respondents when they were asked to name the issue that will be the "most important factor" determining their vote this year. Overall, Managed care reform came in fourth on respondents' list of priorities, behind education/public schools, taxes and Social Security and tying with Medicare. When asked how much government regulation of health plans and health insurers is needed, 50% of respondents said a "lot," 30% said "some" and only 13% said "very little."
Despite the relatively high priority voters attached to the patients' rights issue, the Kaiser Foundation/Harvard University survey found that most Americans, including those covered by managed care, are satisfied with their health plans. Sixty-six percent of adults covered by managed care plans ranked their own health plan as either "excellent" or "good," compared to 75% of persons covered by fee-for-service plans. However, managed care plans and HMOs fell below the survey respondents' ratings of other types of health care firms. Only 30% gave managed care plans or HMOs a "good" rating, compared to 58% for hospitals, 56% for drug companies and 36% for health insurance companies. HMOs were rated as "bad" by 42% of respondents.
How Much Would You Pay?
Seventy-eight percent of respondents to the Kaiser Foundation/Harvard University survey said they favor requiring health plans and insurers "to provide a variety of consumer protections." Support generally falls as respondents are told that certain reforms will add costs or cause a reduction in coverage. For example, only 40% said they would still support patients' rights laws if they knew "it would increase the cost of health insurance premiums usually shared by employers and workers by $200 a year for a typical family." However, 58% said they would support giving patients direct access to specialists, even if it resulted in a cost increase. Similarly, 60% said higher costs would not stop them from supporting a requirement that health plans cover emergency room visits -- even if the "problem doesn't turn out to be serious." And 54% said they would support giving members the right to sue their health plans, even if such a law would increase costs.
Other Surveys Out Today
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey asked respondents to name the issue that "affect[s] their lives a 'great deal.'" Forty-eight percent named "[d]evelopments in medicine and health care" in their response (Duff, Wall Street Journal, 9/17). Democratic party leaders are urging candidates to stick to issues such as education and health care as the fall elections near. The recommendation is based on a "$50,000 Democratic poll taken in 10 'swing' districts" which found that "voters were more interested in candidates who talk about key issues than those who focus campaigns on morality." Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX), head of the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee, said, "Our candidates in key races are ahead, and ahead by a significant margin. As long as they will keep talking about education, health care and Social Security, they will continue to do well" (AP/Nando Times, 9/17).