Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public support for health reform rebounds

After a summertime of town hall meetings featuring loud opposition to health reform, (regardless of whether you think that the anti-health reform demonstrations were spontaneous or organized), Congress is buckling down to tackle health reform. The silly season is over, which raises the question: what do Americans now think about health reform?

According to a latest Kaiser Health Tracking poll, “public support for health reform ended its summer slide, reversed course and moved modestly upwards in September.” According to Kaiser, 57 percent of Americans now believe that tackling health care reform is more important than ever—up from 53 percent in August. Despite the uptick, a substantial share of the public (47%) favors taking longer to work out a bipartisan approach to health reform, compared to 42 percent who would prefer to see Democrats move faster on their own.

Substantial majorities of Americans continue to say they back individual reform components designed to expand coverage, including an individual mandate (68%), an employer mandate (67%) and an expansion of state programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (82%). The component that draws among the strongest support across the political spectrum is the provision requiring that health insurance companies cover anyone who applies, even if they are sick or have a pre-existing condition, which garners 80 percent support.

Even health reform support among seniors has increased in the past month, Kaiser found. Seniors are still more skeptical than other groups that health reform will benefit them, but the share of seniors who think their family would be better off if reform passes climbed 8 percentage points from August, from 23 percent to 31 percent. Twenty-eight percent thought they would be worse off, and 33 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference. Fifty-five percent of seniors said they were “confused."

On the other hand. So, clearly, Americans are feeling more positive about health reform, right? Not so fast, according to a recent Rasmussen survey which shows that public support of health reform has reached a new low. Who do you believe, the reputable political pollster or the reputable healthcare pollster? Can they both be right?

With all the public misinformation and confusion surrounding health reform, some experts believe that legislators should not rely on polls at all. As an example of public misinformation/confusion, one poll asked respondents whether the federal government should stay out of Medicare—which is impossible—and 39 percent agreed that it should stay out of it.

In short, Americans say they favor health reform, except when they don’t, if the polls are to be believed. Is it any wonder that our elected officials seem to be all over the place when it comes to health reform? Maybe they’re just reflecting the views of the general public.


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