Blacks are far more critical of the quality of health care available on Long Island than whites and also are much more likely to view access to care as the biggest problem facing the health care system, according to the Newsday/News 12/Siena Research Institute poll.
The results on those two questions highlighted a divide between blacks and whites on many issues that are prominent in the debate over transforming the nation's health care system. On issues including whether to create a public option for those without insurance and whether more government involvement will lead to rationing of services, minorities and whites are far apart.
Their views incline toward each other on a narrow range of issues; for instance, both groups identify as serious problems the level of insurance-company profits and the practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Of the 1,037 registered voters who responded to the poll, 77 percent identified themselves as white and 10 percent as African-American or black. Pollsters said the proportions of Hispanics and Asians - 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively - were too small to draw solid conclusions about their views.
Seventy-three percent of blacks said they view the quality of care on Long Island as a problem, compared to 47 percent of whites.
Forty-five percent of blacks say the number of people without insurance is the single biggest problem that the health care system faces.
Only 20 percent of whites agreed; instead, their biggest concern is the cost of health care, according to the poll.
Meanwhile, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites - 79 percent compared to 41 percent - to support health care overhaul legislation that is based on proposals outlined by President Barack Obama.
Steven Greenberg, a Siena pollster, said the racial disparities on that question broke down largely along party lines, since the majority of African-Americans belong to the Democratic Party. "What you see is more a partisan difference than a racial difference," said Greenberg.
But other experts say the divergent views also reflect long-standing disparities in access and the quality of care among racial and ethnic groups.
"There are certainly health care disparities and this is not acceptable but it's obviously not a surprise," said Gwen O'Shea, president and chief executive of The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island.
"They don't necessarily get to the point of identifying cost as an issue because they can't get care," O'Shea said of blacks and other minorities.
For Mary Ann Walker, 53, a poll participant from Hempstead, the quality of available care is a key issue. Walker, who is black, is legally blind and suffers from diabetes. She currently is unemployed.
Walker said she was using a doctor in Garden City until the doctor stopped accepting Medicare. "It is a problem, quality of care," she said. "People that don't have insurance can't see good doctors."