SURVEYS & POLLS: Wall Street Journal Looks At Patients’ Rights Issue
Today's Wall Street Journal contains a special insert with several articles analyzing a new Journal/NBC News poll on health care and patients' rights. Reporter/columnist Al Hunt writes: "When it comes to getting the best medical care available, Americans are decidedly egalitarian, believing that everybody ought to get the best that's available, but that the rich ought to be able to get whatever they can pay for. There is also a strong sense of fairness ... when it comes to how to pay for better health care or sacrifices that should or shouldn't be made." Other poll findings cited in Hunt's analysis:
- At least two-thirds say "the government should guarantee everyone the best and most advanced health care that technology can supply. ... Those most likely to be denied care -- the poor and minorities -- almost universally support this proposition."
- "There is close to an equal division" over whether the most advanced health care should be funded by higher premiums for the existing system of health insurers and managed care plans, or from a government-guaranteed program with higher taxes.
- The public "also overwhelmingly thinks everyone should have access to health care services." But respondents demonstrated a "sharp split" when asked if the federal government should guarantee universal access. "Both sides in the health-care debate likely will draw solace from that response," Hunt writes.
- On cost controls, a "sizable majority believes that everyone ought to be required to pay some amount" of deductible or copayment every time they visit a hospital or doctor. "Yet, at the same time, they believe that the amount of money people pay for health care should be based on their ability to pay," Hunt writes (6/25).
A piece by Jackie Calmes in the Journal section looks at how the public views HMOs and health insurers. The Journal/NBC News poll found that only 23% of respondents believe HMOs "improve the health system, and 40%" said "they make it worse." Health Insurance Association of America's Chip Kahn said, "HMOs have become synonymous with health insurance, even though a lot of people aren't covered by HMOs, and there are some whole parts of the country that don't even have them. The political rhetoric has affected the image of the entire industry." Calmes' article notes that the managed care industry has launched a public relations campaign to offset the negative public views. American Association of Health Plans' Mark Merritt said, "We've got to realize that nobody can get our message out except us. We've got to turn this debate around. ... Despite problems in the polls, managed care provides the best solution to providing access to quality care at the best price to the most people" (6/25).