The latest New York Times/CBS News poll indicates that 72 percent of Americans strongly favor a major overhaul of the health care system and support a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
Most Americans say they are willing to accept higher taxes in order to provide all citizens with coverage and believe the government would do a better job of holding down costs than the private sector.
At the same time, poll respondents indicated they are uncomfortable with the impact government involvement might have on the quality of their own health care. Eighty-five percent of respondents believe the health care system needs to be radically altered, while 77 percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the quality of the care they currently receive.
These conflicting public opinions helped kill the last attempt to revamp the health care system during the Clinton administration sixteen years ago. Today it represents the huge obstacles that face President Obama and the nation’s lawmakers as they attempt to address the health care system’s fundamental problems.
Congressional Republicans have strongly denounced the plan, calling it an unnecessary expansion of government control heralding nationalized health coverage and rationing of care. But the poll indicates broad bipartisan backing, with half of those identifying themselves as Republican in support of a public plan; nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats support it.
The poll indicates growth in support for the plan, with half of respondents saying they think the government would be better than private insurers at providing coverage, up from 30 percent in a 2007 poll. Almost 60 percent said they believe a government-run plan would be able to hold down costs, up from 47 percent. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to guarantee universal coverage.
Poll respondent Matt Flurkey, a 56-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., said he could accept that the quality of his care might diminish if coverage was universal. “Even though it might not be quite as good as what we get now,” he said, “I think the government should run health care. Far too many people are being denied now, and costs would be lower.”
Eighty-seven percent of respondents lamented the inability of people to access care, calling it a serious problem. One in four said that in the preceding 12 months someone in their household had cut back on medications due to expense, and one in five said someone had skipped a recommended test or treatment. Eighty-six percent of those polled said rising health care costs posed a serious threat to the country’s economic recovery.