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New Poll Gauges South Florida's Views on Health Care

Cost the Critical Healthcare Concern, Complexity of Information Clouds the Picture

MIAMI, Feb. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Residents of the greater Miami area point to cost as their biggest healthcare concern and find information about the cost and other aspects of health care coverage to be complex and confusing. They are paying close attention to presidential candidates on health care and want more information from the candidates about the bottom line cost for them and for the country. They say the top health care priorities for the candidates should be to provide health insurance to all children, improve prescription drug coverage, and control rising health care costs. Residents also give mixed reviews to the quality of health care in the Miami area, but most are satisfied with their own health care.

These are just a few of the key findings of a new poll released today as part of "The American Public on Health Care: The Missing Perspective," a project of The Council for Excellence in Government with expert guidance from the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies. The survey -- conducted by the Gallup Organization -- will be a focal point of discussion at a town hall meeting tonight at the University of Miami. The Accenture Institute for Public Service Value is supporting this project and conducting research on international health.

Cost is the Biggest Health Care Concern

48% of Greater Miami area residents say that cost is their biggest health care concern, versus 37% who say quality and 9% who say being able to get health care. Only 40% are satisfied with their out-of-pocket health care costs, the lowest rating given to any dimension of their health plans.

Greater Miami area residents are more likely to say that information about costs is complex and confusing than most other types of information they have about their health plans (38%). And, when asked about the importance of different factors when choosing a health care plan, cost is just as important, in consumer's minds, as having a good selection of doctors covered under the plan.

Health care is hot on the campaign trail and voters want to know the bottom line. Area residents believe that insuring all children (84%), controlling rising health care costs (76%), improving prescription drug coverage (72%), and improving the quality and safety of medical care (72%) should be top priorities of political candidates. Providing access to health care for non-US citizens (30%) was lowest on the list of priorities for candidates.

70% say that allowing Americans to take their health care with them when they leave a job should be a priority for candidates, including 86% of African Americans and 83% of lower income residents.

Two-thirds say they are paying close attention to candidates' positions on healthcare in the 2008 elections, including 47% who say they are paying very close attention. Miamians think it would be extremely helpful to know from candidates how much their health plans will cost taxpayers (72%), how the plan will help cover the uninsured (67%), how they will pay for their plans (66%), and how their plans will improve the quality of health care (65%).

A Tale of Two Health Care Systems: Ours and Mine.

Miami area residents are generally negative about the quality of health care in the area, yet rate the care they personally receive much higher. 45% say the availability of quality health care in the Miami area is fair (25%) or poor (20%) and only 9% say it is excellent. However, one-fourth rate their care as excellent (25%) and an additional 52% rate it as good. Less than a quarter rate it as fair (16%) or poor (6%).

In addition, 75% of area residents say that access to care for the uninsured is only fair or poor. Nearly the same amount complain about the affordability of healthcare, with 22% saying it is fair and 49% poor. Just 8% say it is excellent.

Coverage, Access, and Cost are Top three factors in choosing a health plan.

When asked to rate the importance of nine different considerations if they were choosing a new health plan, most Miamians "want it all." In order of importance, the top considerations were:

-- Coverage: The benefits cover the services you need (68% major consideration)

-- Access: Being able to see a specialist without having to get a referral (67% major consideration)

-- Cost: The total cost you would pay for the health coverage (66%)

-- Prescription drugs: Offering low cost prescription drugs (65%)

-- Paperwork: Having simple paperwork (65%)

-- Choice: The selection of doctors and hospitals covered under the plan (63%)

Quality and Coverage are Key Factors in choosing a physician.

When asked to rate the importance of eight different considerations if they were choosing a new primary care physician, three out of four (74%) indicated that the performance and quality ratings of the doctor would be a major consideration. However, only 44% have actually checked the quality ratings of a doctor in the last 12 months. Of those that have, 80% find the information to be understandable and useful.

-- Coverage: Seven in ten (70%) said that a major consideration would be if the doctor is covered under your health plan, this was especially important for retirees (83%)

-- Hospital Quality: Nearly as many (68%) said the quality of the hospital where the doctor practices would be a major consideration, especially Palm Beach County residents (76%) and the highest income residents (82%)

The Importance of Information: What Miamians Want to Know.

Quality and performance rankings, as well as electronic health records are becoming increasingly important to health care consumers, but still have a long way to go in terms of adoption. Miami area residents show a relatively high awareness of electronic health record technologies (50%). However, only 7% have actually used such technology.

Privacy appears not to be a significant concern as it relates to sharing of medical records online among doctors and providers. 77% favor giving doctors the ability to share access to medical records with patient's permission. Most people (59%) also favor sharing in a large database to help researchers understand and compare the effectiveness and possible side effects of various treatments or prescription drugs, if no patient names are used.

The poll of 401 Greater Miami area residents, including Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County was conducted by telephone in late January, 2008 and features an overall sampling error of +/-4.9%.

The results of the survey will be discussed this evening at 7:00 p.m. during a town hall meeting at the University of Miami. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be moderated by television journalist Frank Sesno, and will feature University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, Miami-Dade County Health Administrator Lillian Rivera, UnitedHealthcare of South Florida CEO Dan Rosenthal, Jackson Health System Chief Resident Dr. Victor Herrara, and Council for Excellence in Government President Patricia McGinnis. But the real "stars of the show" will be the audience -- area residents with their own questions, suggestions, and ideas.

This is the first meeting in The American Public on Health Care: The Missing Perspective Town Hall Series -- a project of the Council for Excellence in Government in partnership with Accenture and the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies. Through lively, interactive town hall meetings -- underpinned by local and national public opinion survey research by the renowned Gallup Organization -- the series will explore the challenges, problems and trade-offs of health care...all through the lens of the people most touched by it... the American people.

The effort is modeled closely on the Council for Excellence in Government's American Jobs: A National Conversation and Homeland Security from the Citizens' Perspective projects, which engaged the public on a wide range of related issues and released a set of national recommendations for action.

Founded in 1983, The Council for Excellence in Government is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to improve government performance and citizen participation. The Council's successful Homeland Security and American Jobs projects have set the standard for public-oriented Town Hall meetings.

The Accenture Institute for Public Service Value is a research and development center that helps public service organizations create value and improve social outcomes for their citizens by advancing high performance in public service delivery, policy and governance.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies serves as adviser to the nation to improve health and provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public. The mission of the Institute of Medicine embraces the health of people everywhere.

SOURCE Council for Excellence in Government
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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