Like special-interest groups in any other industry, healthcare lobbies always manage to gin up a public opinion poll or research report that supports their political agenda.
Who's for managed-care regulation? Certainly not managed-care enrollees, as polled by the various healthcare insurance lobbies.
Managed care may be limiting doctors' ability to care for the poor and may be inhibiting medical researchers' ability to attract funding, according to two studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to a study commissioned by the American Hospital Association, Medicare payment restrictions that are part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 are driving down hospital profit margins to the point of jeopardizing patient care.
It took some searching, but By the Numbers located several public opinion polls that had little or no connection to healthcare special-interest groups. The consensus? People really don't think things are that bad, and if you want to tinker a little to improve things, go ahead.
* In one consumer poll, sponsored by virtually every national healthcare organization and consumer group concerned about healthcare delivery, people generally expressed confidence that they could get the medical treatment they need, have access to high-quality healthcare services, have enough freedom to choose providers and afford healthcare services without suffering financial hardship.
* In another poll, the public said it doesn't see healthcare issues generally and Medicare reform specifically as the highest priorities for federal lawmakers to address.
* When consumers were asked about which industries they would most trust to do the right thing if a serious safety problem cropped up with one of their products or services, they ranked the hospital industry above all other choices, including the banking and airline industries.
* Public opinions about the healthcare system in the U.S. don't differ significantly from the opinions of consumers in other countries about their respective healthcare systems.
* If you want to improve customer satisfaction with your specific institutions, make sure your nurses are top-notch. An analysis of patient- satisfaction data from hospitals across the country reveals the obvious: Whether patients recommend your hospital to others depends largely on the quality of care and the services provided by nurses.
Finally, this section of By the Numbers tells you who funds consumer healthcare opinion polls, in case you want to do one yourself.