NU Online News Service, Feb. 4, 1:03 p.m. – The American Association of Health Plans, Washington, has started its own polling campaign in an effort to show that likely voters care about issues such as the cost of health care as well as efforts to “reform HMOs.”

Researchers from Ayres, McHenry & Associates Inc., Roswell, Ga., interviewed 600 likely 2004 presidential caucus voters in Iowa and 800 likely 2004 presidential primary voters in New Hampshire. Half were Democrats and half were Republicans.

The researchers found that voters in both parties say consumers should have the option to choose a health plan that offers basic coverage at a lower cost.

Regardless of state or party, more than two-thirds of voters agreed that governments should provide estimates of the cost of new health care requirements, as well as estimates of the effect of those requirements on the number of uninsured consumers.

Voters from both parties also agreed that access to health care, controlling costs, availability of information about quality and safety, and reforming medical malpractice are important to any health care reform plan, the AAHP says.

Republicans in both states viewed controlling costs as the most important health care issue.

Iowa Democrats were most interested in drug coverage for seniors, and New Hampshire Democrats were most interested in covering the uninsured, the AAHP says.

The polls also found that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., leads the pack of Democratic contenders. He was the pick of 24% of the Iowa voters surveyed and 36% of the New Hampshire voters.