Health costs a source of worry for Americans Poll finds people concerned but don't know what to do.

April 07, 1992|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

WASHINGTON B — WASHINGTON -- Americans have a growing fear of rising health costs and decreasing medical benefits, a nationwide survey to be released tomorrow shows.

"We've passed through phase one, when most Americans could afford to take a detached look because they were someone else's problems," said Thomas Moloney, vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit health group. "People are actively worried now about themselves and their families."

They may be worried, but the survey shows people also are confused about the best way to fix what they see as a growing problem.

Those surveyed are evenly divided on the three leading options for health insurance reform: play-or-pay, in which businesses must provide insurance or pay a tax to cover the uninsured; single-payer, with the government as the only insurer; and President Bush's tax credit plan. Sixty percent of them, however, place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the federal government.

"The public doesn't understand these plans," said Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., at a news conference yesterday. "It's a real eye-glazer to try to explain it to them sometimes. When they are explained, then the enthusiasm for the individual programs diminishes."

The health plans and results of the survey will be discussed tomorrow in "Condition Critical: The American Health Care Forum." The show, scheduled from 9 to 11 p.m. on PBS, will be moderated by Phil Donahue. Viewers can call 1-800-866-8877 to give their opinions on health care.

The survey of 2,000 was conducted on Jan. 31 through Feb. 24 by Louis Harris for the Commonwealth Fund and the Kaiser Family Foundation, non-profit health groups. Results show:

* Sixty-one percent are concerned that health insurance will become so expensive that they will not be able to afford it.

* 75 percent think the government should set rates for health insurance premiums.

* Of those who are insured, one of every two are concerned that benefits under their current health plan will be cut.

* 73 percent think the government should set prices for prescription drugs.

The survey is one in a series, and another is planned for 1993, said Dennis Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Our purpose in this is to create a neutral score card," he said. "How far have we gotten; how far do we need to go?"

With concerns about health care second only to doubts about the economy, Altman says the issue will be a major factor in how people vote in November.

"The question is whether any candidate can articulate a proposal that will win widespread support and tap this concern," he said.

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