Better Healthcare One Key to Improving Basic Access

by Ian T. Brown and Justin Bibb

New report reveals public spending priorities for Arizona residents

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With Arizona in the middle of the U.S. states on resident wellbeing, and other measures, the Center for the Future of Arizona has set out to create a citizen-led agenda for statewide betterment. A recent Gallup Arizona Poll asked Arizonans to choose among public improvement issues they would be willing to support through a tax increase. Arizonans were most willing to support a tax increase to see healthcare become more available and accessible, although there was also significant support for increasing good paying jobs and helping Arizona become more energy independent.

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Nearly 27% preferred that higher tax dollars go toward the healthcare alternative. Another 23% preferred that higher tax dollars would go to increase the number of quality jobs, and 22% preferred that higher taxes would go toward helping Arizona become more energy independent.

The complete Arizona We Want report, released today by the Center for the Future of Arizona, is the result of a five-year effort to capture the ideas of both Arizona's leaders and the citizens they represent. The Center seeks to provide a realistic and contemporary picture of who Arizonans are today and what they want for the future. The Gallup Arizona Poll began collecting data for the project in 2008.

Accessible and affordable healthcare is a significant issue for many U.S. states. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index finds that in states such as Texas, New Mexico, and Mississippi, roughly one in four residents report being without health insurance in the first half of 2009. In Arizona, 15% of respondents reported having no health insurance, down slightly from 16% in 2008, which places Arizona among the middle of U.S. states.

The Gallup Arizona Poll asked respondents more specifically about the best use of tax dollars going toward improving the state's healthcare system. About one in four Arizonans (26%) supported a publicly-funded insurance option for all who need it. This was the most popular choice among all health spending options surveyed.

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Arizonans were clearly divided in terms of choosing one of several alternatives that focused on the best way to improve healthcare access. Nearly 19% said universal insurance coverage for children was the best use of their tax dollars, while another 17% said the best use was publicly-supported insurance for Arizonans with chronic diseases, and 16% said the best use was healthcare discounts for people who adopt healthy lifestyles.

Access to Basic Needs and Services

Access to affordable healthcare is one basic need considered optimal for a healthy life. The Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index includes a Basic Access Sub-Index to gauge access to such needs as medical care, affordable fruits and vegetables, and feeling safe walking alone at night. U.S. states whose residents report having the best basic access include Iowa (85.9 on a 0 to 100 scale) and Minnesota (85.7). States with the lowest basic access scores include Mississippi (77) and West Virginia (77.7). In 2009, Arizona again falls among the middle of U.S. states with a score of 80.8, down from 82.2 in 2008.

The Arizona We Want study includes respondents' attitudes toward basic city services (which includes the availability of healthcare, the availability of affordable housing, and the quality of the highway and freeway systems). Respondents in the Phoenix/Tucson corridor are more satisfied with their basic services than respondents in smaller cities and rural areas. Overall, Arizonans are more satisfied with their basic services than residents across the 26 Knight Foundation communities, surveyed between February and April 2009. The 26 Knight communities include such high population urban areas as Philadelphia, Miami, and Detroit as well as smaller communities such as Boulder, Myrtle Beach, and Biloxi.

What Citizens Want

The Arizona We Want report presents an in-depth review of what drives citizen attitudes about where people live and why they live there. By measuring how attached citizens are to their communities, stakeholders involved in developing public policy can have a greater perspective on what they like and what challenges they see. As national lawmakers debate numerous public policy issues, including the future of the American healthcare system, elected officials may benefit from survey results that seek to capture the citizen voice as a whole, rather than relying only on the disparate voices in town hall crowds.

Read the full report on the Arizona We Want Web site.

Gallup.com's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day, based on data collected between January and June 2009. To see all stories published in the midyear 2009 series, click here.

Survey Methods

"Basic Services" results are based on telephone interviews with 3,606 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in Arizona between December 2008 and February 2009. One can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is +/- 1.7% for Arizona.

Healthcare results are based on Web surveys with 831 adults, aged 18 and above, who completed the telephone survey. Web survey was conducted in Arizona between December 2008 and March 2009. Due to the "forced choice" methodology employed, error range at 95% confidence is quite low, +/- 0.3%. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Wendy McMullin and Bob Torongo contributed to this report.
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