SAN FRANCISCO—A majority of Californians across party lines say the state should make major changes in its health care system--such as greater emphasis on prevention and universal access to care for children--according to a new multilingual poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
The poll found that 62 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Independents believe California should make significant changes. More than half of Republicans (53 percent) agreed. Only 11 percent of Californian’s surveyed say the system is fine as it is, while the majority of people without health insure believe changes are needed.
The poll also found that most Californians rate their health as good to excellent, and most are at least somewhat satisfied with the quality of health care they receive.
But there are stark differences in the way key demographic groups view their health and the quality of life in their communities.
The PPIC survey included health care related questions for the first time since the poll began in 1998. The institute polled 2,504 adults between January 18 and February 1, with support from The California Endowment.
Health Care Cuts and Debate
It was done at a time of sharp debate over the national health care reform law passed last year and which congressional Republicans want to derail. Intensifying the debate are ever-rising health care costs and the fact that governors in California and many other states are proposing statewide cuts in health and human services.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed significant reductions in the Health and Human Services agency budget, as well as spending limits in MediCal (the Golden States Medicaid program) and in-home services for the elderly.
Half of those surveyed said conditions in their community are contributing to their overall good health, while only a third said their community surroundings have no effect on their health.
The majority of those surveyed said local health care services should put more emphasis on prevention than treatment, and most said children should have access to universal health care to prevent illness.
“As Californians and governments at all levels struggle with health care costs and the prospect of cuts in services, most residents view prevention as important, and they see that local conditions can indeed make a difference in their health,” noted PPIC head Mark Baldassare, who directed the survey.
On national health care reform, the PPIC report cites a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that suggests Californians (51 percent) are slightly more likely than adults nationwide (45 percent) to support it.
Ethnic Health Gap
A New America Media-commissioned multilingual poll of ethnic adults in California last year found a “major information gap” among those surveyed about the health care reform law. Despite that, most ethnic Californians believed the law would have a positive impact on their lives.
In the PPIC findings, although eight in 10 Californians said their health was excellent (22 percent), very good (24 percent) or good (35 percent), dramatic differences emerge across key groups.
For instance, a majority of whites (58 percent) said they are in very good or excellent health, while less than half of Asians (45 percent), 38 percent of blacks and 31 percent of Latinos said the same.
The poll also reveals health disparities among people of different income levels. In households earning $80,000 or more, nearly three-quarters boasted of excellent or good health, compared with 48 percent of middle-income residents and only 31 percent of those in households making less than $40,000.
The poll also found that the more education those polled had, the better their health status.
Californians were also more likely than the rest of the United States to view obesity as a serious health problem, but California adults differ along political lines on how the issue should be addressed. Most Democrats (62 percent) believe that addressing obesity is both the individual and the government’s responsibility, while most Republicans (63 percent) place the responsibility squarely on the individual.
Even though the state’s Democrats and Independents are far more likely than Republicans to want more emphasis placed on prevention, there is almost universal agreement that children should have access to universal health care to prevent illness.
Most of those polled said good jobs, good public schools and safe surroundings that encourage people to take walks and engage in other forms of exercise, all contribute to overall good health.
Other findings of the poll show that Californians view unemployment as their biggest concern, with 59 percent calling it a major problem in their community. At 43 percent, African Americans are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to say their schools are not very good or poor.