Support for Health Care Reform on the Rise

Support for reform rebounds after a summer of widely-publicized misinformation campaigns.

Posted by Brooke Jarvis at Oct 07, 2009 05:14 PM |
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Death panels. Mandatory abortions. Rationed care. An attack on Medicare. Government-chosen doctors. It's been a summer of scary, unfounded claims by industry lobbyists and others opposed to reforming our broken health care system.

The misinformation campaign certainly had an effect, most visible during August's town hall meetings. But while support for health care reform dropped in August, it rebounded in September, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll found the increase in support came primarily from independents and Republicans changing their minds in favor of health care reform.

Americans, it seems, began to remember what we've known all along: we're the ones who are suffering under our current profit-driven system, and we're the ones who will benefit from health care that's more affordable and more accessible.

Many people now believe that the reasons widely given for opposing reform are trumped-up: 57 percent of the public and 56 percent of independents believe that "the GOP is opposing reform plans more for political reasons than because they think reform will be bad for the country." And they're aware that the mainstream media has confused the issue by tending to cover "politics and controversies" (50 percent of respondents) instead of the real details of "how policy reforms affect your own family" (8 percent). 

Americans know that having the world's most expensive health care system directly affects their own lives: more than half of Americans have put off health care in the last year because of cost.

Still, while we know that reform is in our best interest, we also realize that it has to be the right kind: respondents reported being both "hopeful" (68 percent) and "anxious" (50 percent) about the currently proposed legislation, which is falling far short of the "Medicare for All" system that a majority of Americans support.

Kaiser poll

Other findings:

  • One third of Americans (33 percent) say they or someone in their household has had problems paying medical bills over the past year. That is up nine percentage points from August and represents the highest level this measure has reached in nearly a year.
  • Americans have coped with high health care costs by relying on home remedies or over the counter drugs instead of seeing a doctor (44 percent), skipping dental care or other checkups (35 percent), or skipping a recommended medical test or treatment (28 percent).
  • The component of reform that draws among the strongest support across the political spectrum is requiring that health insurance companies cover anyone who applies, even if they are sick or have a pre-existing condition. Overall, 8 in 10 people support that idea, including 67 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of independents and 88 percent of Democrats.  
  • When it comes to paying for reform, two ideas now under discussion among policymakers garner initial majority support. Fifty-seven percent of the public say they would support "having health insurance companies pay a fee based on how much business they have" and 59 percent would support "having health insurance companies pay a tax for offering very expensive policies."
  • Large majorities of Americans support health care reform when told it would: improve health care for our children and grandchildren (77 percent); provide financial help to buy health insurance to those who need it (74 percent); help ensure the long-term financial health of Medicare (69 percent); or fulfill a moral obligation by ensuring that people don’t have to go without needed health care just because they can’t afford it (68 percent).
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