Study: Health Care Issues #3 Public Policy Priority in 2005

January 11, 2005 ( - Health care issues rank third on a list of priorities that the US public thinks President Bush and Congress should address in the New Year, well behind the war in Iraq and economic issues.

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 10% of adults thought that reducing the cost of health care should be the highest priority for federal politicians in 2005, with Iraq and economic issues being named as the most important issue by 27% and 17%, respectively. Tied with health care at 10% was terrorism/national security, according to the study.

Looking specifically at health care, lowering costs was listed by 63% as an issue that should be one of the top priorities in the New Year. Following this, making Medicare more financially viable (58%), getting more Americans insured (57%), increasing the quality of care (53%), and improving the nation’s response ability to bioterrorism (50%) were all listed as possible high priorities. On the lower end of the list was increasing federal funding for stem cell research (21%) and reducing jury awards in malpractice suits (26%).

Americans seem to have a pessimistic view of health care costs, with 63% claiming that the rise in costs is due to health care and insurance companies’ profit shares. The number of malpractice suits was also cited by 60% as a reason for the increase costs. Greed and waste in the system (57%) and the aging of the populace (49%) were also cited by many of those polled as a reason for the continuing increase in the cost of health care.

Dealing with malpractice suits, an issue raised by President Bush, has considerable support from Americans. Forty-nine percent of respondents to the survey think that jury awards in such suits are often too much and 61% think that too many suits are brought to begin with. Seventy-two percent would support new rules that would require verification from a third party that would testify to a case’s reasonableness, according to the survey.

Some 73% support the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, with 69% stating that the cheaper drug will not be a health hazard.

Regarding the new health savings accounts (HSAs) that took effect on January 1, most Americans are still in the dark about them, with 53% stating that they do not know what these new accounts are. Of those who do know what they are, only 4% said that they are currently enrolled in such plans.

The poll, conducted of nearly 1,400 US adults, is available here .