Survey Show Americans Favor Higher Tax WASHINGTON, DC--Americans strongly favor raising the federal excise tax on tobacco, and the majority want Congress to do something to provide health care coverage for the uninsured, according to two polls conducted for the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The surveys also reveal that Americans are worried about the quality of health care delivered by managed care organizations, especially in cases of serious illness. The ACS released a summary of the surveys at a briefing for Capitol Hill staffers.
The polls found strong support across the political spectrum--from self described conservatives, moderates, and liberals--for upping the federal tobacco excise tax to help pay for various health endeavors.
These include paying for health care for all children who need it (73%); expanding health care coverage for children (58%); funding biomedical research, including cancer prevention and treatment (69%); and educating children and adolescents about the dangers of tobacco use (68%).
Tax Increase Could Save Lives
"Every 5¢ increase in the federal tobacco tax would yield about $3.5 billion in new revenue over seven years and save the lives of about 60,000 children and adults alive today," said Harmon J. Eyre, MD, the ACS' executive vice president for Research and Cancer Control.
Currently, the tobacco excise tax stands at 24¢ a pack. Congress last raised it in 1993. Interestingly, in light of the tobacco money issue raised in the 1996 presidential campaign, 59% said they would not vote in future elections for candidates who accepted contributions from the tobacco industry.
Penn & Schoen, Inc. conducted the two polls, one on Nov. 20 among people who cast ballots in the presidential election, and the second one month later as a follow-up.
More than half of those polled (54%) said they were very concerned about the rapid changes wrought in health care by managed care organizations, and 74% expressed concern about the quality of care they or a family member would receive from managed care plans if they were diagnosed with a serious illness.
"This is clearly an issue Congress needs to think about," Dr. Eyre said. "The federal government must play a key role if we are going to reduce cancer death rates and maintain quality care."
A Stronger Statement
Helene G. Brown, director of community applications of research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of ACS' Futures Initiative, put it a bit stronger.
"If those of you who work here in Washington haven't heard what the people are saying, then I think you really haven't been listening," she told the congressional aides. "They are very, very, very angry about managed care."
She said that people don't understand the need for a "middle man" in health care delivery or why managed care organizations "are making a fortune while services decline and hospitals and doctors are paid less."