IN THE NEWS: Health Care Tops Americans’ Agenda
Health care has jumped to the top of the list of issues the public believes the government should address, according to the latest Harris Poll. About 19% of respondents selected health care as their top concern; 19% also mentioned education, followed by crime/violence (15%), Social Security (12%) and taxes (11%). Researchers note that this is the first time since February 1995, when 25% selected health care, that health care was Americans' top issue. About 2% of respondents indicated Medicare was an important issue for the government to address, 1% selected AIDS and 3% mentioned abortion. The survey has a 95% statistical accuracy, +/-3 percentage points (Harris Poll, 11/5).
Watching Health On the News
The 20th Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard Health News Index survey on the most closely followed health news stories finds almost half of Americans (48%) in the last two months "closely" followed news on the increase in the ranks of the uninsured. How well did they understand the story? Three-fifths knew that the number of the uninsured has increased, and 49% knew that more of the uninsured are employed or from families in which someone is employed. Forty-one percent incorrectly stated that more of the uninsured are unemployed or from families in which no one is employed. Twenty-one percent of respondents knew that over 40 million Americans are without health insurance. Roughly four in 10 believed the number was lower, whereas 25% thought about 30 million were uninsured, and 14% guessed that the number was about 15 million. Of the total number of people surveyed, 23% believed that the number of the uninsured was higher than 50 million.
Regarding the most recent round of Congressional patients' rights debates, four out of 10 people followed the issue in the news. Fifty-six percent of respondents were aware that the legislation was still being considered, whereas 14% thought the bill had become law. Three in 10 people respondents had no idea as to the status of the legislation.
About one-third of respondents closely followed the passage of new patients' rights legislation in California. Thirty-eight percent knew the laws would give patients in that state the right to sue their HMOs; 11% "thought this right was not included" and 51% did not know.
Regarding the presidential race and health care policy proposals put forth by the Democratic conten ders, only 21% said they were aware of Al Gore's proposals, compared to 17% who said they knew about Bill Bradley's. The survey questioned 1,033 American adults about health issues covered by the news media between Sept. 1 and Oct. 7, 1999. For purposes of comparison, the respondents were also asked about other leading current affairs issues during the same period (The Kaiser/Harvard Health News