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Do Americans Really Want Health Care Reform?


We have spent an entire year listening to politicians talk about health care, argue health care, debate health care and even do their best to obstruct health care. When Senator John McCain and then Senator Barack Obama were campaigning on the issue of health care 76%, over three-quarters of all Americans surveyed said that they wanted health care reform. Today the Republicans say that the majority of Americans have changed their minds, that they do not want health care reform.

They are somewhat right, but, as usual, wrong on the most important aspect of what Americans want. The fact is that there are a number of reasons why health care reform is urgent right now. Costs are out of control, premiums and denials are particularly egregious to the average American family. And while the numbers have gone down, it is incorrect to say that Americans do not want health care reform. But it is true that they have been confused about it and are not as enthusiastic as they had been.

So here are some questions asked by a NEWSWEEK poll recently that reflect what Americans think of health care reform right now in late February 2010.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way health care reform is being handled?

40% approve of the way the President is handling health care reform.
27% approve of what the Democrats in Congress are doing and only
21% approve of what Republicans in Congress are doing.

Wow. What a change in one year. After all the Republican lies, the Newt Gingrich participation, the health industry lobbyists, the Fox News and America’s Health Insurance Plans and FreedomWorks sponsored health scare campaigns about “death panels” and “government takeover” the American People now say, the following.

What is your overall opinion of Obama health care plan?

40% of All Americans favor it
15% of Republicans
72% of Democrats
26% of Independents

Now – How about the specifics….we’ll just do the Favorable percentages.

Insurance Exchanges 81% Favor it
Cover Pre-existing conditions 76% “
Require businesses to cover 75% “
Can’t drop coverage 59% “
Government option 50% “

Taxes on expensive existing plans and fines on people who don’t have health care were not popular. They were in the 20%+ range.

Finally, when asked…after seeing what is in the bill an average of 48%, still fewer than 50% say that they are in favor of it….but….that may be the result of the fact that only 18% of Republicans favor the bill. The Democrats are naturally heavily in favor–83%. Independents go up somewhat but are still skeptical—34% saying that they are in favor.

Now it should be said that while only 48% of all those surveyed favored the plan, fewer, only 43%, said that they opposed it.

So, it would appear that two things are present in this NEWSWEEK survey. First, when some people hear the details they are moderately more interested. The Democrats are probably less affluent and therefore more concerned about having the ability to get health care. But also Republicans are probably more influenced by the media, which in the case of Republicans is often media like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and others on conservative radio and Fox News.

So, the question becomes, should we have health care reform? The answer seems to be a modified “yes.” The problem is we cannot simply let those have health care reform who want it and then let others not opt for health insurance. We have to have a vote for health care. The majority will rule. Some people will keep their health care. Others will get new insurance. But some reforms seem almost inevitable now.

Remember, many Republicans need health care but they have been sold a bill of goods by Right Wing commentators. Given the fact that the Republicans are skewed by propaganda against health care, the $400 million in lobbying money and the lobbyist campaigns, like the FreedomWorks tea parties and the organized misstatement of facts, it should not be surprising that they poll at less than 50%. According to the Right Wing commentators and Right Wing politicians like Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner, this is a program that is a government takeover of health care that will kill your grandmother and raise taxes through the roof. If those things were true, Democrats would not vote for it either. .

This bill will do good things. The health insurance industry is against it. They are now making hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the monopolistic, arbitrary, profit-oriented system where top executives, dozens of them are making a million dollars a year or more while many Americans

Another Poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, in its most recent polling says that a total of 43% either strongly or somewhat support the health care reform bill while 43% either strongly or somewhat oppose it. This tracking poll has been back and forth sometimes supporting and sometimes opposing by a point or two for some time.

On the other hand, when people are asked: “Do you think the country would be better off or worse off, if Congress passed health care, the numbers are a little better for health care reform. For example in early February 2010, it was 45% Better Off, versus 34% Worse Off. And it goes like that….42-37, 45-31, 54-27 going back through 2009. So, clearly people think that things would be better off with health care, but many still think that things could be worse.

The Kaiser Foundation poll clearly indicates that people suggest that the Congress pass the legislation that has already passed the House and Senate. No one wanted to wait for a perfect bill or put it off until next year or stop working on it for now. 32% said to pass it now, which was much higher that the other options.

And finally, when people were asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who had supported health care, the answer was clearly that they would be more likely to vote for a person who supported health care reform and less likely to vote for someone who had not. To be fair an equal number of people said that it would not make much difference.

In the Kaiser ongoing poll, the other issues, denial of coverage for prior conditions, subsidies for low income taxpayers, closing the prescription drug bill’s “donut hole”, or expanding Medicaid all those numbers were substantially higher, i.e., either extremely important or very important to those polled.

So what do we know? From these polls at least, we discover that when people go deeper into the bill, they understand its value and the more in favor of health care reform they become. And, at the very least, because this bill has been worked on for so long, by so many and addresses problems that they can recognize, they want it passed.

In other words, the American people do want health care passed…this health care plan….and they want it done now.

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