This morning a friend filled out a Facebook poll entitled, more or less, “How much don’t you want healthcare reform?” The anti-healthcare reform poll/FB quiz showed the vast majority of people who took the poll really did not want reform. Our past readings in classes on healthcare have shown that the US pays more for less when it comes to health. How can you improve that situation? Changing incentives for physicians and hospitals, spread risk over bigger population, increase preventative care, improve management and decrease insurance/administration costs – there are options.
Some of the proposed solutions might help – some might not. A big question, however, is whether the public is interested in overhauling healthcare or prefers incremental change and continued stop-gap bandaids. To answer this question, a few polls help give a sense of the public opinion.
Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) recently summarized several polls. Of interest:
- There is roughly a 50-50 split on the abstract question of whether respondents had a willingness to pay for health reform.
- The willingness to pay varied between 57% in CBS/NYT’s June 09 poll and 41% in KFF’s June 09 poll.
- The wording varied: CBS/NYT asked a willingness for a plan they “can’t lose, no matter what,” whereas KFF asked a willingness for increased “premiums or higher taxes.”
- Roughly 6% was undecided in all the polls (CBS/NYT June ’09, KFF June ’09, Quinnipiac June ’09, NBC/WSJ March ’09, CNN/Opinion Research May ’09)
When specifics are given (for example, $500 more a year), support drops. Surprisingly, support drops even more when the specifics include taxing generous benefits or equally taxing all benefits.
- KFF’s June ’09 poll gave 60% in favor of taxing the top income bracket (>$250,000) to fund the reform.
- NBC/WSJ June ’09 and WP/ABC June ’09 also had 60% in favor of the rich funding the reform.
- Curiously, KFF also found most people (60%) think policymakers could make changes to healthcare that would reform the system without spending anything more.
- So are people skeptical of addressing health reform now? KFF projected 60% wanted health care reform now, despite the economy and other pressing issues.
- The public trusts doctors’ opinions on how to improve the system (73%).
- The public also trusts university researchers’ and professors’ opinions (62%).
- Big pharmaceuticals and insurance companies get little trust (40% and 35%).
- Just over the 50-50 split (56%) support Congress’s current plan for reform.
Gallup’s results show the majority polled favor play-or-pay incentives, as well as higher taxes on top income earners.
Can there be a summary? The results seem to show more people want reform than don’t, but it is close. KFF suggested that public opinion is malleable – depending on convincing arguments or how the debate is structured, the majority can shift. Combine that result with Gallup, La Follette and other policy research institutes have public trust, and the accompanying responsibility, to give accurate appraisals of healthcare reform. Those appraisals have the potential to have large impacts this summer and fall as health reform stays on the national agenda.
Other interesting polls on health reform: