Importing Prescription Drugs, Expanding Health Coverage Backed, New Poll Finds
A majority of U.S. residents want Congress to legalize the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and Europe and would be willing to pay higher taxes for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, the Post reports (Connolly/Deane, Washington Post, 10/20). The telephone poll of 1,000 randomly selected adults nationwide was conducted between Oct. 9 and Oct. 13 (Lester, AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/19). Of those surveyed, 83% had health coverage, and 17% did not. The survey's findings are summarized below.
- Seventy-five percent of respondents said they would support Medicare prescription drug coverage at a cost of $400 billion over the next 10 years, while 20% said they would oppose it. Of those who said they support such a program, 79% said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund it, while 20% said they would not be willing to pay higher taxes.
- Of those polled, 69% said that importing prescription drugs from Canada, Europe and other industrialized countries should be legal, while 29% said that it should not be legal. Twelve percent of respondents said that they or a member of their household had purchased drugs from a foreign country to get a better price.
- When asked whether providing health care coverage for all residents is more important than "holding down taxes," 80% said that extending health care is more important, compared with 17% who said that holding down taxes is more important. When asked whether they preferred universal health care or the current health care system, 62% said they preferred universal care, compared with 32% who said they preferred the current system.
- Fifty-four percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the quality of health care in the nation, compared with 44% who said they are satisfied.
- Of those surveyed, 78% said they are dissatisfied with the total cost of health care in the United States, while 21% said they were satisfied.
- When asked about their opinion of President Bush's handling of prescription drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, 42% disapproved of it, compared with 35% who said they approved of his handling of the situation.
- Sixty percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way Bush was handling the cost, availability and coverage of health insurance, compared with 31% who said they approved of it.
- Among those with health care coverage, 82% said they are satisfied overall with their plan, compared with 18% who said they are not satisfied. However, 59% of people with health insurance said they worry about being able to afford the cost of coverage over the next few years; 40% said they are not worried.
- When asked which kind of Medicare program they preferred, 57% preferred Medicare+Choice, and 40% preferred the traditional, fee-for-service Medicare program (Washington Post/ABC News poll, 10/20).
Medicare conference committee Chair Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) in an interview on ABCNews' "This Week" on Sunday addressed the poll's findings, including U.S. residents' "growing discontent" with the cost and structure of the U.S. health care system. In addition, Thomas said that he "really still feel[s] confident" that negotiators attempting to reconcile the House and Senate Medicare bills (HR 1 and S 1) that would add a prescription drug benefit to the program would reach an agreement this year. In the interview, which was the first of a special week-long series of ABCNews broadcasts titled, "Critical Condition: HealthCare in America," Thomas also discussed negotiators' consideration of adding a copayment for home health care services, a House-approved provision that calls for private health plans to compete with traditional Medicare beginning in 2010 and concerns about rising costs and program sustainability with new health technologies and treatments (Stephanopoulos, "This Week," ABCNews, 10/19). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.