Tuesday, September 14, 9:30 a.m. EDT

For more information, contact
Kari Root, Janet Firshein, or Linda Loranger at
301-652-1558 or
Jon Gardner, Health Affairs, at 301-347-3930


Those Surveyed Voice Widespread Support For A Government Role
In Ensuring Adequate Health Care For Children And Elderly, Regardless Of Income

Bethesda, MD — Despite the recent creation of a drug benefit for seniors and the popularity of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a majority of Americans believe that the health care needs of children and the elderly in this country are not being met, according to a survey released today at the National Press Club by the journal Health Affairs.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults nationwide indicated widespread support for a strong government role in providing health care to all children and the elderly, regardless of income level. This support cut across age groups, gender, and political party affiliation. While Medicare essentially provides universal coverage to the elderly, Medicaid and SCHIP are aimed at low-income children.

According to the survey, 59 percent of adults believe that the health care needs of children are not being met, while 67 percent believe that the health care needs of the elderly are not being met. When questioned about the role government should play in financing health care for these groups, 90 percent thought that government should fund health care for all low-income children and elderly, while almost the same percentage felt that this funding should be available to both age groups, regardless of income.

“People want to take care of the poor and people who have needs,” said Marc Berk, lead study author and vice president of NORC at the University of Chicago. “In an era of likely budget deficits where there is a lot of pressure to look for ways to cut programs, this survey shows that health care is not an area that the public wants to consider cutting.”

You can read the article at content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.w4.446.

The survey results were released today as part of a Health Affairs briefing held to assess the state of the country’s investment in children’s health care and outcomes. In addition to the survey results, the September/October 2004 issue of the journal offers new data on generational differences in government spending, how children are affected by downturns in the economy, and an analysis of the challenges facing SCHIP. The issue was funded in part by the Nemours Foundation.

The American public does not believe that the needs of one group should be put ahead of the needs of others. Americans support devoting the same level of health care resources to children as to the elderly, and at least two-thirds of those surveyed erroneously believe that this is already happening.

Current government spending on health care for the elderly far exceeds that of children, with the government spending eight times as much on the elderly. In 2001, per capita government spending on health care for the elderly was $4,360, compared with $258 for children.

In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, also published in the same issue of Health Affairs, shows that the gap in per capita social welfare spending between children and the elderly grew 20 percent in the past two decades. The study indicates that unlike spending on the elderly, spending for children suffers during economic recessions. This has been evidenced by recent cutbacks in many SCHIP programs as a result of overall state budget cutbacks.

“Clearly, there is a problem when 7.8 million children remain uninsured, and when many of the elderly, even though they have a form of universal coverage, still can’t afford needed medications,” said Claudia Schur, a study coauthor and a principal research scientist at NORC. “Our survey indicates that Americans would like all children and the elderly to have access to needed health care.”

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is a bimonthly multidisciplinary journal devoted to publishing the leading edge in health policy thought and research. Copies of the September/October 2004 issue will be provided free to interested members of the press. Address inquiries to Jon Gardner at Health Affairs, 301-347-3930, or via e-mail, press@healthaffairs.org. Selected articles from the September/October issue are available free on the journal’s Web site, www.healthaffairs.org


©2004 Project HOPE–The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.