Health Care Reform: The Public Speaks (With Forked Tongue)

Who says Congress doesn’t accurately reflect the will of the American people? The public has spoken about health care reform, and the message is clear: “Whatever.”

If you’re a politician who believes that soaring promises soothe voters, while the painful tradeoffs involved in voting for an actual proposal can only bring trouble, the latest figures from the11th annual Health Confidence Survey of the respected Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) have got to be good news.

The public is practically demanding inaction! Asked what they would do to fix health care, an overwhelming 87 percent favored health tax credits, similar to the health plan of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, CQ Health Beat reports. On the other hand, a nearly-equally-overwhelming 83 percent favored letting people buy into the same health care system government employees get, the option trumpeted by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Indeed, one might say the public and the politicians are in sync about the urgent need to pay lip service to the notion of health care reform. So, while a whopping 71 percent of respondents endorsed  "major change" or “a complete overhaul “of the health care system, it finished a distant third to the economy and energy costs as a priority. Only about half as many people think health care is as important a crisis as the cost of gasoline (13 percent vs. 24 percent). And should the war in Iraq or some other issue heat up, one can expect health care to continue to finish well back in the pack.

Finally, there was the fine print: About half the respondents said they are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with quality of care. And while hardly anyone had a good opinion about health care costs, the key figure to look at is the personal saliency of their concern. The percentage of Americans reporting an actual increase in their personal health care costs dropped to 55 percent from 63 percent.

10 replies »

  1. There is definitely a dumbing down of the nation when it comes to important issues like healthcare reform. You ask the average Joe or Jane about the Biggest Loser and you will get a lot of detailed information. What is it going to take to wake the people up?

  2. I second Maggie 100%(surprise!) – everyone is focusing on entirely the wrong issue.

  3. Basically this poll tells me just about what you see in almost every poll of the US public on healthcare and reform – an overwhelming majority don’t bother to read or understand any of the particular issues so its leads to contradictory responses and Americans are fine with change as long as they don’t have to give anything up and it won’t cost them any more.

  4. Reform means that a player or players are going to have to give in. Are the Physician’s going to take more of a pay cut? No. Are the Insurance companies going to give up margin? No. There are well funded lobbies protecting the payer and the physician, very little representation for the patient.
    I think the solution lies somewhere in a medicare/caid style of standard care (office visits, well-woman and preventative care etc) and a private insurance coverage of additional services, almost a government (federal $$ state implementation) sponsored PCP network.
    A good point from an earlier post…we don’t need health insurace, we need healthcare.

  5. Michael-
    Thanks for an insightful, as usual, post.
    You write: “Indeed, one might say the public and the politicians are in sync about the urgent need to pay lip service to the notion of health care reform.”
    I’m afraid that is all too true. And what really worries me is that so many people are fixated on making sure that everyone has a piece of paper that says “health insurance” on the top–without worrying about whether the policy would ensure high quality, effective,affordable and equitable care.
    Giving everyone HealthINSURANCE is not the goal. (Though it would be very good for the financial health of the insurance industry.) Giving everyone Effective HealthCARE is.

  6. “Let me buy in to the Congressional Plan, Medicare for Powerful-Not-Yet-Old People, and then pay me to do it so I don’t really have to buy anything.”
    Is this about it?

  7. Unfortunately, most US Americans are uninformed, and the mixed messages (or better, varying opinions) they get from politicians and physicians don’t help.
    I don’t know all the details about the Obama health care plan and frankly I am only interested when he starts proposing something as a president.
    If he plans a public plan (like the famous “members of congress” plan that Obama mentions) that is allowed to compete with private plans (and that will likely do well due to low administrative cost), I think it’s a step in the right direction.

  8. It never ceases to amaze me that no one seems to get this: You can’t take advantage of a tax credit if you have $50 in the bank and $10,000 worth of treatment to face. Why is it that everyone assumes we’re all comfortably off, with a nice liquid nest egg? I’ve got enough money to cover a broken leg, or a serious repair on my 16 year old car. Not both. No tax credit is going to help me unless Uncle Sam will pay the hospital for me ahead of time. And even then…
    More and more of us are on the edge of disaster. Why can’t we admit that? Because it’d be speaking against the American Way. Lately that way seems to be “if you can’t show the cash, just die. Why should anyone care?”
    I’m very sad.

  9. I’m not surprised that a large majority favors the candidates’ ideas, because that’s all they hear and all they know. I also think that a lot of people want change, as long as it doesn’t require them to do anything personally.
    The difficult thing is, real reform is going to require something from all of us. If those of us within the system can develop a comprehensive plan and we can communicate it in such a way that there is enough buy-in from the citizens, there’s a chance that we can make some real progress. (I also believe that the glass is half full)