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New Poll By Health Advocacy Groups Highlights Concerns About Current Insurance System

More than three quarters of Americans older than age 50 have concerns that the insurance system as it stands now will not be able to continue to pay for medical treatment for them or that of someone they know, according to a poll released Wednesday by three major health care advocacy organizations.

The AARP, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association released the poll, which indicates that people in this age group also worry that there will not be enough doctors or nurses in the health system to provide care. Two-thirds of those polled said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the current system limits them in their choice of a doctor.

All three of these organizations have been active supporters of overhauling the nation’s health care system.

The poll — which was conducted Sept. 4-7 and surveyed 1,001 people older than age 50 — was conducted by Woelfel Research, Inc.

Nancy Nielsen, the AMA’s immediate past president, said lawmakers need to work “fearlessly in the face of fear-mongering” to pass health reform. “It’s important to remember that the status quo isn’t acceptable.”

Nielsen said patients and physicians shouldn’t have to fight with insurers to get coverage for care and reforms should strengthen government health systems like Medicare and Medicaid. She also urged tort reform to curb the cost of defensive medicine.

“But it is frankly, a moral stain on our nation that not all Americans can get that care because they lack health insurance,” she said.

AMA President J. James Rohack also sent a letter today to President Barack Obama and Congress urging action on reform. In it, he advocated universal coverage for all Americans, insurance reforms, allowing only doctors to make medical decisions, promoting wellness and repealing the Medicare physician payment formula. He also called for tort reform and steps to standardize insurance claims to reduce administrative cost.

Rebecca Patton, president of the American Nurses Association, and Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP, joined Nielsen Wednesday morning on a conference call to talk about the poll and their organization’s positions on reform.

In her remarks, Patton said the nurses’ group favors a government-run public option over a co-operative plan and believes that health care is a basic human right. LeaMond said AARP is concerned about myths that are getting perpetrated by people in the debate who are distorting the attempt at reform.

“There’s no question that the scare tactics have made people very nervous and very concerned,” she said. “We believe that in the next few weeks, starting tonight with the president we’ll have the opportunity to get to the real issues because I think as we’ve all said we know that the current system is not working.”