HEALTH

Poll: Americans divided over healthcare-reform legislation, but may be unaware of provisions

BY Michael Johnsen

MENLO PARK, Calif. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll issued late last month found that Americans are divided over congressional health-reform proposals, but also noted that large shares of people, including skeptics, become more supportive after being told about many of the major provisions in the bills, such as the effort to close the “doughnut hole” for seniors utilizing Medicare so that seniors no longer would face a period of having to pay the full cost of their medicines.

The new survey found that America’s seniors lean against the proposed legislation, with 48% opposed, 37% in favor and 15% offering no opinion.

The survey, however, found that seniors were less likely than younger Americans to be aware that the legislation includes provisions to close the “doughnut hole.” As many as 37% of seniors were aware of such provisions, compared with 53% of those under age 40. Six-in-10 seniors said that if the legislation did work to close the doughnut hole they would feel more supportive of it, a level of support identical to that found among younger Americans.

The January Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted before the Massachusetts Senate vote, found overall opinion is divided when it comes to the hotly debated legislation, with 42% supporting the proposals in the Congress, 41% opposing them and 16% withholding judgment.

“It’s one thing to talk about the public’s perception of healthcare-reform legislation, which right now is in some ways negative, but it’s another to tell people what’s actually in the bill and when you do that people are more positive,” stated Kaiser president and CEO Drew Altman.

Of the 27 elements of the legislation tested in the poll, 17 moved a majority to feel more positively about the bills and two moved a majority to be more negative.

The poll finds that even after a year of substantial media coverage of the health-reform debate, many Americans remain unfamiliar with key elements of the major bills passed by the House and Senate. About half are aware that tax credits would be available to small businesses, one of the most popular provisions. And 44% recognize that the legislation would help close the Medicare “doughnut hole.”

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CDC reports historic lows in flu activity

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The flu news coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week is that there is no flu news to speak of, at least relative to flu seasons past.

For the week ended Jan. 23, influenza activity remained at approximately the same levels as last week, the CDC reported, which is below historical levels for January.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 1.7%, falling below the national baseline of 2.3%. Only 2-out-of-10 regions (the Southeast and Southwest) reported ILI equal to their region-specific baseline. No states reported widespread influenza activity, five states reported regional influenza activity and nine states reported local influenza activity. Three states reported no influenza activity.

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CHPA to fight reverse-switch of PSE products in Mississippi with legislative line

BY Michael Johnsen

JACKSON, Miss. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association on Saturday announced a legislative line for consumers to call in an effort to fight a move to reverse-switch cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine from behind-the-counter to prescription-only.

“CHPA has provided a phone number for Mississippians to contact their legislators which within the first day fielded scores of calls from around the state,” stated CHPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk. “We have heard their outrage on talk radio, and online posting to news web pages. And recent polling shows almost two-thirds of Mississippi voters oppose the legislation,” she said. “Everyone wants to fight meth, but Mississippians believe an electronic tracking procedure is better than the added cost and burden of a prescription mandate.”

The toll-free number is 1-866-346-8118, or consumers can visit www.StopMethNotMeds.org.

According to the poll, 74% of Mississippi consumers agree that an Rx-only requirement would create an “unnecessary burden” for law-abiding citizens, and approximately 61% oppose the law.

Last week, the Mississippi House passed H.B. 512, legislation that would impose an Rx-only mandate on commonly available cold and allergy medications containing PSE. Identical legislation is currently being shepherded through the Senate (S.B. 2339).

“Because Mississippi does not tax prescription drugs, this legislation would also divert $590,000 from the general fund annually, as well as increase the costs to Mississippi’s Medicaid program through increased doctor’s visits and prescriptions as a result,” Funderburk added. “This would be an expensive new mandate from the state on the budgets of Mississippi families and Mississippi taxpayers. There is a better way to fight meth, and that’s through establishing an electronic tracking program to stop the illegal sale to criminals.”

The survey, conducted from Jan. 14 to Jan. 23, involved 350 Mississippi state residents ages 18 years and over, all of whom voted in the last election. The survey was sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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