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POLL IDENTIFIES SERIOUS VOTER CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH CARE REFORM COST, BLUE CROSS OF WASHINGTON SAYS

 SEATTLE, March 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The cost of pending health care reform legislation was of great concern to Washington voters, according to a recent statewide poll, Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska said today. The poll found that while Washington voters want change, they reject the legislature's version of reform because it costs too much and calls for too much government involvement. The poll was conducted by the Evans/McDonough Co. of Seattle and sponsored by Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska.
 Voters consider the bill recently passed by the Washington State Senate "a solution that's worse than the problem," said Don McDonough, principal of Evans/McDonough.
 The poll's key findings describe Washington state voters as anxious for health care reform, but even more anxious about taxes and the economy. Ultimately, concerns about cost and government involvement overwhelm support for the current health care reform proposal.
 -- Asked in an open-ended question to name the most important problem facing Washington state, health care tops the list of mentions, mentioned by 28 percent; note, however, that media coverage of the pending legislation was intense during the interviewing period.
 -- Taxes are second on the list, named as the most important problem by 27 percent. Jobs placed third, mentioned by 26 percent.
 -- Asked to name the most important health care problem, 69 percent of voters say the cost of health care; 14 percent cited accessibility as their prime concern.
 -- Responding to a summary of the major provisions and benefits of SSB5304 (the bill passed the state senate on March 12), 57 percent of voters support the plan, 30 percent oppose the plan. After learning about cost and about government management of health care called for in SSB5304, voters reject the proposal with only 33 percent in support of the plan and 54 percent opposed.
 -- Given a choice between a basic health care plan managed by government and a basic health care plan managed by the private sector, 74 percent of voters prefer a private-sector-managed plan; only 15 percent prefer a government-managed plan.
 "Voters are clearly worried about the burden of new taxes," said McDonough. Rating specific tax increases, 71 percent of voters oppose an income tax, 79 percent oppose an increase in property taxes, and 64 percent rejected a higher sales tax. Taxes on tobacco products, taxes on alcoholic beverages and snack taxes are the only tax increases favored by a majority of voters -- and some of these taxes have been removed from the legislation.
 "The public believes that health care reform should address the cost of health care. This research demonstrates that voters may not be prepared to accept health care reform that raises taxes," said McDonough.
 The research shows strong opposition to new taxes for health care. A majority of voters (56 percent) agree with the statement that "Taxes in Washington state are too high already; I would oppose any tax increase regardless of the purpose." Voters are evenly divided over whether they would pay new taxes or higher insurance premiums for any version of universal health care; 50 percent agree that they would be willing to pay, and 46 percent disagreed.
 The survey also found voters would be less likely to support a plan that would cover only the employed, as opposed to all residents; 71 percent say they would be less likely to support employee-based health care reform. Also, 65 percent would be less likely to support the measure if it resulted in premium increases for the currently insured in order to subsidize more widespread access.
 "The results of this poll show just how complicated the issue of health care reform is," said Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska Chief Executive Officer Betty Woods. "We need health care reform in Washington state. It's important that the reform be done right -- in a manner that Washington state can afford."
 The Evans/McDonough Co. poll was conducted by telephone between March 9 and March 11. The survey was conducted among 700 randomly selected Washington state registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7.
 -0- 3/17/93
 /CONTACT: Peter B. Summerville of Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska, 206-670-5630; or Don McDonough of Evans/McDonough, 206-282-2454/


CO: Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska ST: Washington IN: HEA SU: LEG

LM-SW -- SE003 -- 6999 03/17/93 11:35 EST
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