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PENNSYLVANIA MEDICAL SOCIETY RELEASES RESULTS OF PUBLIC OPINION POLL ON HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM AND BIOETHICS

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- A Pennsylvania Medical Society poll on people's attitudes about health system reform and bioethics found that three out of four Pennsylvanians are confident they have enough money or coverage to pay for a major illness.
 The same number also believe that neither the perceived value of a patient to society nor the patient's age should be considered when deciding whether to make a medical service available to that person.
 The poll, which was released at a news conference today by Society President Martin A. Murcek, M.D., was commissioned by the Medical Society and conducted in late September by Millersville University's Center for Politics and Public Affairs and Penn State Harrisburg's Center for Survey Research.
 "The Medical Society commissioned this study to learn what Pennsylvanians believe about some of the central issues in health system reform," Murcek said. "Some of the questions in the survey addressed topics that have been covered in other national and local polls.
 "But we explored tough questions that are at the heart of the health care debate that have not had the same scrutiny," he said. "Questions that confront our basic beliefs on the importance of human life."
 Murcek said one of the Medical Society's greatest concerns about some health system reform proposals is that they may limit the ability of people to choose their physicians and their coverage. The poll showed that 72 percent of Pennsylvanians believe people should have the ability to choose from several basic benefits packages to meet their needs. And 86 percent say people should be allowed to purchase supplemental insurance to cover medical services that might not be included in the basic benefit package offered under a particular reform.
 Another concern of the Society in health system reform is that it may create more of a bureaucracy which takes away the ability of patients and their physicians to make the best medical decisions for the patients.
 "You know, there are a number of things wrong with our health care delivery system, but there are also those things that are right," Murcek said. "And the doctor-patient relationship is one of the things that is the most right and one which reform shouldn't take away."
 Murcek noted that the results of several of the questions in the survey showed that Pennsylvanians prefer a health delivery system focused on individual and personal relationships as opposed to institutional decisions. He said it was most evident in the responses to questions where physicians would make decisions that limit care. For example, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians believe that a physician should be permitted to help end the life of a terminally ill patient.
 "I think this points out the desire of people to make medical decisions in cooperation with their physician and not have those decisions dictated by a bureaucracy," Murcek said.
 Other results of the survey, which had a 4 percent margin of error, included:
 -- Eighty-six percent of Pennsylvanians have health care coverage.
 -- Fourteen percent of people said there has been a time since January that they or a family member did not go to the doctor because they couldn't afford the costs.
 -- Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed thought that people who smoke should pay more for their health insurance, 64 percent said those who abuse alcohol should pay more, 77 percent say those who use illegal drugs should pay more, and 66 percent said that those who engage in unsafe sexual practices should pay more.
 -- Eighty-eight percent of Pennsylvanians think that insurance companies should not be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, 79 percent think insurers should not be allowed to only cover costs unrelated to the condition, and 72 percent don't think the insurer should be able to charge a higher rate for those with pre-existing conditions. The percentages were even higher when the question was changed from "pre-existing condition" to people with "genetic structures which predispose them to a disease."
 -- Pennsylvanians are closely split as to whether a physician should be permitted to help end the life of a patient who suffers from a chronic disease, if death is not imminent. Forty-five percent said the physician should be permitted to help and 53 percent said the physician should not be permitted.
 -- Three in five Pennsylvanians have heard or read about the state's living will statute, although only one in five has actually completed a living will. More than half of those who have not completed a living will said they would like to do so.
 -- Seventy percent of Pennsylvanians think that drug companies should not be allowed to continue setting the prices of prescription drugs.
 The Pennsylvania Medical Society is a statewide association which represents some 21,000 physicians. Murcek is a pediatrician/allergist who practices and lives in Greensburg, Westmoreland County.
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 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Copies of the complete survey are available by calling Amy Dugan at 717-558-7750./
 /CONTACT: Amy Dugan of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, 717-558-7820, or 717-558-7750/


CO: Pennsylvania Medical Society ST: Pennsylvania IN: HEA SU:

MK-LJ -- PH016 -- 5494 11/17/93 12:21 EST
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Date:Nov 17, 1993
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