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Joan Trombetti, Writer | April 29, 2009
Kaiser Family Foundation
As economic conditions remain poor, a majority of the public continues to say that they or a member of their household have delayed or skipped health care in the past year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's April health tracking poll.

Perhaps because Americans continue to struggle with the cost of medical care in their own lives, the country's overall economic problems have not dampened their interest in pursuing health care reform: a solid majority of the public (59%) believes health care reform is more important than ever compared with the thirty-seven percent who say we can't afford health reform because of economic problems.

"Our polls suggest strong general support for health reform, but the public can be swayed on the key details," said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman. "There is still a tremendous opportunity for leadership but also for interest groups to define the direction of the health reform debate."

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The most common actions taken due to costs were substituting home remedies or over-the-counter drugs for doctors visits (42%) and skipping dental care or check ups (36%). Additionally, three in ten (29%) did not fill a prescription for medicine and two in ten (18%) cut pills in half or skipped doses.

Not everyone can forgo care, and overall one in four (26%) Americans say someone in their household has had trouble paying medical bills in the past year.

Support for Some Methods to Pay for Health Reform, Others Less Popular

One of the crucial challenges for health reform is the financing of the plan.

Seven in ten (71%) Americans strongly or somewhat favor increasing income taxes for those in families making more than $250,000 per year, but there is much less support for increasing income taxes on all taxpayers (28%).

The poll indicates some support for taxing unhealthy behaviors, sometimes called "sin" taxes. When asked if they would favor or oppose increasing taxes on a package of items including soda, alcohol, junk food, and cigarettes to pay for health reform and provide coverage for the uninsured, six in ten (61%) favor such taxes while roughly four in ten (37%) are opposed. Asked about each of these items specifically, the poll suggests there is somewhat more support for increasing taxes on cigarettes, wine and beer than on snack foods or soda.

Another tax change that has been discussed by some policymakers as a financing option is changing the tax treatment of employer-based health insurance. Roughly half (52%) of the public is opposed to changing the law so workers with the most generous health benefits would pay taxes on the money their employer puts towards their coverage, while 41 percent are in favor. Those who currently have employer-sponsored health insurance are even more likely to oppose the proposal (62 percent oppose, 33 percent favor).