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Californians approve of healthcare reforms, fear effect of state cuts on services, new poll finds

February 9, 2011 |  9:12 pm

Californians are more likely to support President Obama’s healthcare overhaul than the rest of the country and fear the impact of state budget cuts on health services, according to a poll released late Wednesday by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California.

“Despite what appears to be mounting opposition at the national level, that is not affecting Californians’ attitudes,” said Gerald Kominski, professor of health services at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, after reviewing the poll results. “There’s a growing awareness that there’s a lot of provisions of health reform that affect everybody.”

The annual telephone poll of about 2,500 residents was conducted from Jan. 18 to Feb. 1. For the first time since the poll began in 1998, it incorporated questions about healthcare.

Just over half of those polled -- 51% -- support national health reform and 36% oppose it. By contrast, a national poll conducted by the Associated Press last month found that 40% of respondents supported the healthcare law and 41% opposed it.

Nearly 60% of respondents in the Public Policy Institute's poll also think major changes are needed in the state’s healthcare system, and more than half were concerned that the state budget gap would lead to cuts in health services. Democrats -- 62% -- and independents -- 61% -- were more likely than Republicans -- 53% -- to think major changes were needed in state healthcare, the poll found.

“Many people recognize there’s an issue with many Californians being uninsured and that the state healthcare system needs changes, and part of that has to do with changing the national healthcare system,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the institute. “People feel vulnerable, even those who feel satisfied with what they currently have.”

Nearly half of Californians surveyed said their health was excellent or very good, but responses varied by ethnicity and socioeconomic demographic. Those less likely to consider themselves healthy included Latinos, 31%; African Americans, 38%; people earning less than $40,000 a year, 31%; those with a high school education or less, 28%; and those without health insurance, 31%.

About 40% of those polled were very satisfied with the quality of their healthcare, while 22% were dissatisfied. Satisfaction increased with income, age and level of education. Minorities were less likely to be very satisfied.

About six in 10 of those polled wanted more emphasis on preventive healthcare rather than treatment, and 76% said universal healthcare for children was very important for preventing illness.

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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