PATIENTS’ RIGHTS II: Groups Disagree On Mandate For Reform
Health care industry and patients' rights groups are arguing over whether the results of Tuesday's election constitute a mandate for action on patients' rights. According to a survey released yesterday by the Health Insurance Association of America, the election results contain no mandate for patient protections. The survey, conducted by Alexandria, VA-based Public Opinion Strategies, found that health care reform did not rank among the top five issues when voters were asked what their most important issues were when choosing a congressional candidate. Similarly, when voters were given a choice of issues, the top choice was "restoring honesty and integrity in government" (23%), followed by Social Security and Medicare (17%) and the economy and jobs (12%); health care reform ranked fifth at 8%. HIAA President- designate and COO Chip Kahn said, "The survey shows ... that there was no mandate for so-called patient protections or health reform by voters in this year's Congressional elections. None of the Congressional races hinged on health reform." Interestingly, the survey did find that the problem of the uninsured ranked highest in voters' concerns about health care, with 33% saying it was the most important health care reform goal, followed by 27% who said that making health care more affordable was the most important goal. Forty-seven percent said that government action should be taken on the issue of the uninsured even if new taxes were required, and 27% said action should be taken if no new taxes are required. By a margin of 74% to 19%, voters said they would be more likely to vote for a Member of Congress who makes affordable health care a priority over tougher HMO regulations (HIAA release, 11/5).
Yea, What They Said
The Health Benefits Coalition, which includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Restaurant Association, the American Association of Health Plans, Citizens for a Sound Economy and several large insurers, agreed with the HIAA's assessment that health care reform failed to be the defining issue in the elections. They note that exit polls showed most Americans ranked health care low on their list of key issues and that a post-election review of highly competitive races found that 25 of the 42 candidates who made HMO-basing a central part of their campaigns lost. "The election results showed that Americans are not interested in big government mandates that will drive up the costs and fail to improve the quality of a health care system that they are largely satisfied with," said Dan Danner, chair of the coalition (release, 11,5). The AAHP released an analysis of election results earlier in the week that also found that HMO-bashers failed poorly.
We Beg To Differ
Families USA however, said that the sheer volume of candidates calling for managed care reforms speaks to the viability of the issue. The patients' rights group notes that in House, Senate and gubernatorial races across the country, candidates from both parties voiced support for patient protection legislation, and that supporters of patient protections won a number of key races. "If this election shows anything, it demonstrates that virtually no one is willing to defend the insurance industry's position on the issue of patient protections. ... [R]egardless of office and regardless of party, almost every candidate ... sought to be on the side of the angels in supporting patient protection legislation and not insurance company foot dragging," said Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack (release, 11/4).