Concern about the cost of health insurance, access to health services, and emerging public health issues has captured the attention of the public to a degree not seen in Kansas since the early 1990s. Which issues most concern Kansans, and what do they believe should be done about them? To find out, the Kansas Health Institute commissioned a poll of Kansans across the state to determine their attitudes and opinions about health and health care. Among the findings are:
- 55% of currently insured Kansans say they are worried they may not be able to afford health insurance in the next six months.
- Kansans stated clear preferences for the state’s health care agenda, with 84% saying providing prescription drugs for low-income seniors was extremely or very important; 78% saying funding programs to help small businesses obtain affordable health insurance was extremely or very important; and 71% saying funding programs that help workers with low-incomes pay for their health insurance was extremely or very important.
- The preferences stated by Kansans for the state’s public health agenda were also clear, with 81% saying that increasing funding for programs that provide immunizations to children was extremely or very important.
- 64% of the public favored increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, and 53% favored an increase in state sales tax from 5.3% to 5.8% to help low-income workers pay for health insurance.
- Similarly, 64% of Kansans favored increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, and 52% favored increasing state sales tax from 5.3% to 5.8% to pay for new public health programs.
Satisfaction With Health System
- 67% said they were very or fairly satisfied with the Kansas health care system, and 74% said they were very or fairly satisfied with the state system designed to protect the community’s health (public health).
As the cost of health care has grown recently, driven by expenses such as prescription drugs and new technologies, the price of health insurance premiums has increased at double-digit rates, causing many employers to shift a greater proportion of the cost of health benefits to employees and forcing some employers to cancel employer-sponsored coverage altogether.
The percentage of uninsured Kansans has surely grown in the past two years. (10.5 percent of Kansans were uninsured in 2001.) Many of those who have insurance are worried about losing it, and some are foregoing needed care because they cannot afford the cost of deductibles and co-payments.
Against this backdrop, new health issues have emerged in the form of bioterrorism preparedness and coping with the growing epidemic of obesity and its consequences for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
To better understand the public’s opinions and attitudes about current health and health care issues, the Kansas Health Institute contracted with Harvard University pollster Robert Blendon to survey Kansans across the state. This Issue Brief is a summary of the major findings from the poll.
Asked to name in their own words the most important health care issues for Kansas state government to address, 31 percent of Kansans said health care costs (18 percent general health care costs and 13 percent prescription drug costs), and 23 percent said the uninsured and inadequate health insurance coverage. These priorities are reflected in answers to questions about specific policy proposals. The figure at left shows the percent of the public that said these policies were an extremely or very important priority for the state’s health care agenda.