(HealthNewsDigest.com) - With gun control re-emerging as a major political issue following the tragic mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the latestKaiser Health Tracking Survey measures the public's personal experiences with, and worries about, gun violence. It finds that one in five Americans say they personally know a victim of gun violence. And considerably more - four in ten Americans (42%) - say they are at least somewhat worried about being the victim of gun violence.
Among the twenty percent who know a victim, a majority say that person was a good friend, family member or even themself. Blacks stand out as the group most likely to know someone who suffered from gun violence (42%), followed by younger Americans (28% of those aged 18 to 29). When it comes to worrying about becoming a victim of gun violence, the poll finds members of racial or ethnic minority groups are particularly likely to report concern, with majorities of Hispanics (75%) and blacks (62%) saying they are worried, compared to 30 percent of whites.
The poll also probed Americans' experiences with and opinions about mental illness and mental health care following Newtown. It finds that three-quarters of Americans believe that individuals with severe mental health issues experience "a lot" or "some" discrimination, higher than the share who say the same about minorities, women and people with physical disabilities. Only immigrants were more likely to be perceived as experiencing discrimination, with 79 percent of the public saying immigrants faced "a lot" or "some" discrimination. The survey also finds that many people hold potentially stigmatizing attitudes about the mentally ill. Two-thirds of parents say they would not feel comfortable having "a person with a serious mental illness" work in their child's school. Nearly half the public (47%) would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable living next door to such a person, and 41 percent would feel uncomfortable working alongside them.
In terms of access to care, 8 percent of Americans say someone in their household has had problems getting needed mental health care, a proportion that rises to two in ten (20%) among those currently without health insurance. The most common barrier was cost, followed by insurance coverage issues and confusion over where to go.
In other key poll findings this month:
Less than a year before the ACA takes full effect, the February poll finds the public tilting negative on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with 42 percent holding unfavorable views and 36 percent favorable, reflecting a drop in favorability driven primarily by a post-presidential election fade in support among Democrats. The share of Democrats backing the law dropped from 72 percent in November to 57 percent. At the same time, the proportion of Americans with no opinion on the law ticked up to nearly a quarter (23%), a new high in Kaiser polling. Public support for the law historically has moved up and down within a relatively narrow band.
As the immigration debate ramps up, four in ten Americans believe, incorrectly, that under the ACA undocumented immigrants are eligible for Medicaid or subsidies to help purchase health insurance in the new exchanges. Another quarter isn't sure. If a law were passed allowing some undocumented immigrants to apply for provisional legal status, a majority of the public says those who obtain that status should be eligible to enroll in Medicaid if their income is low enough (63%) or get financial help from the government to buy health insurance if they don't get coverage through their job (59%). Support differs by party, with majorities of Democrats and independents in favor and a majority of Republicans opposed. It's worth noting that under current law many lawfully present immigrants are subject to eligibility restrictions for health coverage, including Medicaid, that remain in place under the ACA.
The survey was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted February 14 through February 19, 2013, among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,209 adults ages 18 and older. Telephone interviews conducted by landline (602) and cell phone (607, including 321 who had no landline telephone) were carried out in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communication, is dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the major health issues facing our nation and its people. The Foundation is a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California.
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