Public Opinion and the Public Option

Here's the truth: the American people overwhelmingly support a public health care option as part of any health care reform that happens. How do we know? Our friends at Health Care for America Now have taken a look at all the major polls that have asked. Here's what they found: In poll after poll, the American public overwhelming favors the creation of a public health insurance option in health care reform.

publicopiniongraph

Polls were conducted by objective third-parties. For example, the unbiased, reliable, and non-partisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), of which AHIP is a member, registered support for a public option at 83%.

Liberal or Conservative, Urban or Rural, Support is High across America for Public Option.

Americans’ rejection of being limited to private-only health insurance is shared by people with diverse views and backgrounds.
  • 76 percent of respondents in a poll conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal stated that creating a public plan was important, and 71 percent of respondents in the same poll self-identified as either moderate or conservative.
  • A Lake Research Poll in January found that 73% of voters want the choice of a public health insurance option, even when they hear the sharpest insurance industry attacks, such as claims that a public health insurance plan would lead to lower quality health care, more expensive health care, or big government. Those favoring the plan include Democrats (77%), Independents (79%) and Republicans (63%).
  • 71 percent of rural voters in a poll conducted by Lake Research favored the choice of a public plan, a figure nearly identical to the level of support found in urban areas.
  • Rural voters believe in competition. According to these voters, if private insurers are really more efficient than government, they won’t have trouble competing effectively with a public health plan option. In rural areas, voters hold this view more strongly (62%) than in cities (57%). Only 23% of rural voters say a public health insurance plan will have an unfair advantage over private plans.

These polling data reflect the voice of the American people, who are consistently speaking out in favor of major health care reform that includes the choice of a strong public health insurance option.


Wording of Question on Public Health Insurance Plan in Individual Polls
  • Quinnipiac: “Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?” (July 2009)
  • Washington Post/ABC: “Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?” (June 2009)
  • New York Times/CBS: “Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan – something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get – that would competed with private health insurance plans?” (June 2009)
  • Hart/McInturff/NBC/Wall Street Journal: "In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance––extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?” (June 2009)
  • EBRI: "Creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase." (June 2009)
  • KFF (June 2009): "Creating a public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans. Do you favor or oppose this?" (June 2009)
  • KFF (April 2009): “Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans. Do you favor or oppose this?” (April 2009)
  • Consumers’ Union:  "Congress is discussing several ideas to address healthcare reform. One proposal provides everyone, whether insured or uninsured, an additional choice: the option of a public health plan that people can count on to cover what they need at more affordable rates. This option would allow people with good insurance that they like to keep it. Those without good insurance can gain access to reliable healthcare, regardless of preexisting medical conditions, and obtain a consistent menu of benefits. This public plan would be paid for by enrollees. Those that cannot afford to pay the full premiums would be subsidized based on their income. Please rate your level of support for this proposal." (April 2009)
  • Lake Research/HCAN: "Which of the following three approaches to health care reform do you prefer: one, everyone getting health insurance through private health insurance plans; two, everyone getting health insurance through a public health insurance plan; or three, everyone having a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan?" (January 2009)
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  • Susan Gould

    The polls you reference were taken before many of the details of the bill were known, the last three were from April and January — and the polling questions are vague — I found the interview with Cavuto annoying — she came across as someone in la la land who is out of touch with the pulse of the country — and talking over the host does not advance your position — it only serves to make you look nutty — I do not know who you people are, but I was not impressed —

  • http://?? Susan Gould

    The polls you reference were taken before many of the details of the bill were known, the last three were from April and January — and the polling questions are vague — I found the interview with Cavuto annoying — she came across as someone in la la land who is out of touch with the pulse of the country — and talking over the host does not advance your position — it only serves to make you look nutty — I do not know who you people are, but I was not impressed —

  • Eve

    Susan’s reaction is interesting to me. I had the opposite reaction. From what i could hear, she came across as well informed – but was interrupted by the host far too often. It irritates me when interviewers purport to be trying to get at the facts, and then make it impossible for us to hear what the interviewee is saying.

  • Eve

    Susan’s reaction is interesting to me. I had the opposite reaction. From what i could hear, she came across as well informed – but was interrupted by the host far too often. It irritates me when interviewers purport to be trying to get at the facts, and then make it impossible for us to hear what the interviewee is saying.

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  • Fred

    This polling data is irrelevant since most of these have been updated with more current polls. The fact is any generic issue can be skewed based on the specificity and timing of the substance in question. The fact is while “most” favor wider access to health care, even a government option, a greater majority will resist paying for it, both through taxes and rationing. There is no politically convenient way to avoid increasing the deficit and expanding health benefits. It is a dead issue and appears that the Dems are about to sink their own little fiesta by failing to heed the majority temperament.

  • Fred

    This polling data is irrelevant since most of these have been updated with more current polls. The fact is any generic issue can be skewed based on the specificity and timing of the substance in question. The fact is while “most” favor wider access to health care, even a government option, a greater majority will resist paying for it, both through taxes and rationing. There is no politically convenient way to avoid increasing the deficit and expanding health benefits. It is a dead issue and appears that the Dems are about to sink their own little fiesta by failing to heed the majority temperament.

  • http://citizenactionny.org Charlie Albanetti

    Fred:

    The polling data isn’t irrelevant. Qunnipiac’s poll of July 2009 shows 69% support. That’s not a year ago – that’s last month.

    And new polls have different questions that have been changed to change the results. See this post at HCAN’s blog.

    We agree that health care reform may not be politically convenient – but when has any worthwhile reform been? The fact is that 47 million Americans are uninsured, millions more are underinsured, and we’ve been waiting for 60 years for something to be done about it.

    The issue is far from dead.

  • http://www.citizenactionny.org Charlie Albanetti

    Fred:

    The polling data isn’t irrelevant. Qunnipiac’s poll of July 2009 shows 69% support. That’s not a year ago – that’s last month.

    And new polls have different questions that have been changed to change the results. See this post at HCAN’s blog.

    We agree that health care reform may not be politically convenient – but when has any worthwhile reform been? The fact is that 47 million Americans are uninsured, millions more are underinsured, and we’ve been waiting for 60 years for something to be done about it.

    The issue is far from dead.

  • Eric

    Charlie:

    The Quinnipiac Poll does show that 69% of respondents think there should be a public option, but only if they don’t have to pay for it AND this poll was actually taken toward the end of June, BEFORE a lot of the details had come out. Here are some other results from the same poll:

    “Although 69 percent of voters nationwide say Americans should have the option of government- run health insurance, only 28 percent would choose to be covered by it, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters say 49 – 45 percent they would pay more to reform health care, but a total of 72 percent don’t want to pay more than $500 a year.

    Voters say 52 – 34 percent that most Americans do not get good value in the cost and quality of health care. But these same voters say 70 – 25 percent that they personally get good value in the cost and quality of their health care.

    There seems to be a disconnect between the projected price tag that is being thrown around to overhaul the health care system and how much the vast majority of Americans are willing to pay for it. They don’t mind the rich or business financing it, but they don’t seem all that eager to do it themselves. It does raise questions about whether the American people understand the financial enormity of what is under consideration.”

    At the end of the day, people have decent health care but have been told that most other people don’t. Either way, they had no interest in paying for the government to run the health care system and this was before they found out how screwed up it would be.

  • Eric

    Charlie:

    The Quinnipiac Poll does show that 69% of respondents think there should be a public option, but only if they don’t have to pay for it AND this poll was actually taken toward the end of June, BEFORE a lot of the details had come out. Here are some other results from the same poll:

    “Although 69 percent of voters nationwide say Americans should have the option of government- run health insurance, only 28 percent would choose to be covered by it, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters say 49 – 45 percent they would pay more to reform health care, but a total of 72 percent don’t want to pay more than $500 a year.

    Voters say 52 – 34 percent that most Americans do not get good value in the cost and quality of health care. But these same voters say 70 – 25 percent that they personally get good value in the cost and quality of their health care.

    There seems to be a disconnect between the projected price tag that is being thrown around to overhaul the health care system and how much the vast majority of Americans are willing to pay for it. They don’t mind the rich or business financing it, but they don’t seem all that eager to do it themselves. It does raise questions about whether the American people understand the financial enormity of what is under consideration.”

    At the end of the day, people have decent health care but have been told that most other people don’t. Either way, they had no interest in paying for the government to run the health care system and this was before they found out how screwed up it would be.

  • http://citizenactionny.org Charlie Albanetti

    Eric:

    There are 47 million Americans uninsured. That’s about 1/6 of the population. When someone who is uninsured gets very sick, they go to the emergency room to get treatment. Often, they are unable to pay, so those costs are eventually subsidized by the government, i.e., taxpayers.

    I think it is indisputable that the cost of treatment through an ER is more expensive that preventative care. (I’ll look up the data on this if you want it.)

    The public option is not and has never been intended to provide insurance to a majority of Americans. In fact, I think 28% of respondents saying they’d choose it is a surprisingly large number.

    Finally, as far as cost, people who already have employer-based insurance won’t see any increase. It’s likely they’ll see a financial benefit from it because the whole reform package will lower health care costs generally. And, the responses you quoted above are answers to questions with flawed premises. Less than 2% of taxpayers nationwide will see any increase in taxes to fund health care reform based on the tri-committee House bill. People opposed to $500, $1000, or any increase in their taxes to cover health care is pretty irrelevant to this discussion.

  • http://www.citizenactionny.org Charlie Albanetti

    Eric:

    There are 47 million Americans uninsured. That’s about 1/6 of the population. When someone who is uninsured gets very sick, they go to the emergency room to get treatment. Often, they are unable to pay, so those costs are eventually subsidized by the government, i.e., taxpayers.

    I think it is indisputable that the cost of treatment through an ER is more expensive that preventative care. (I’ll look up the data on this if you want it.)

    The public option is not and has never been intended to provide insurance to a majority of Americans. In fact, I think 28% of respondents saying they’d choose it is a surprisingly large number.

    Finally, as far as cost, people who already have employer-based insurance won’t see any increase. It’s likely they’ll see a financial benefit from it because the whole reform package will lower health care costs generally. And, the responses you quoted above are answers to questions with flawed premises. Less than 2% of taxpayers nationwide will see any increase in taxes to fund health care reform based on the tri-committee House bill. People opposed to $500, $1000, or any increase in their taxes to cover health care is pretty irrelevant to this discussion.

  • http://stuartselkin.com/ Stuart Selkin, MD, JD

    We are, respectively, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist who’s been in private practice for 36 years (who also holds a law degree), and an attorney. We know from first-hand experience that any program of healthcare reform must include a public option.

    We are especially interested in seeing H.R. 676 become the law. This would extend Medicare to all U.S. residents, allowing all of us to receive high-quality, affordable health care from the physicians whom we, and not the insurance carriers, choose. Yes, we fervently support a single-payer system.

    Every day we have seen private insurance companies take advantage of their insured. Private insurers have become increasingly more inventive in denying payment for legitimate medical claims as they continue to raise premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. And, of course, now, they cherry pick just exactly whom they will insure.

    So it has become a fact of life that physicians have been treating more and more long-standing patients without compensation. And when patients do come in for care, they are much sicker, often requiring a more prolonged course of treatment.

    And every day, as more and more patients lose their health care benefits, insurance carriers continue to rake in unconscionable profits.

    It saddens us that those members of Congress who most loudly decry the public option have no problem accepting a public option for themselves and for their families. How do they have the temerity to deny to their constituents that which they so readily take for themselves?

    The public option.
    For every American.
    Just like in every other industrialized nation in the world.
    And just like our own Congress.

    Choice (of public option) is crucial.

    Stuart Selkin, MD, JD
    Pamela Selkin, Esq.
    Melville, New York

  • http://stuartselkin.com Stuart Selkin, MD, JD

    We are, respectively, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist who’s been in private practice for 36 years (who also holds a law degree), and an attorney. We know from first-hand experience that any program of healthcare reform must include a public option.

    We are especially interested in seeing H.R. 676 become the law. This would extend Medicare to all U.S. residents, allowing all of us to receive high-quality, affordable health care from the physicians whom we, and not the insurance carriers, choose. Yes, we fervently support a single-payer system.

    Every day we have seen private insurance companies take advantage of their insured. Private insurers have become increasingly more inventive in denying payment for legitimate medical claims as they continue to raise premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. And, of course, now, they cherry pick just exactly whom they will insure.

    So it has become a fact of life that physicians have been treating more and more long-standing patients without compensation. And when patients do come in for care, they are much sicker, often requiring a more prolonged course of treatment.

    And every day, as more and more patients lose their health care benefits, insurance carriers continue to rake in unconscionable profits.

    It saddens us that those members of Congress who most loudly decry the public option have no problem accepting a public option for themselves and for their families. How do they have the temerity to deny to their constituents that which they so readily take for themselves?

    The public option.
    For every American.
    Just like in every other industrialized nation in the world.
    And just like our own Congress.

    Choice (of public option) is crucial.

    Stuart Selkin, MD, JD
    Pamela Selkin, Esq.
    Melville, New York

  • cjb

    We must have the public option. Without it, the insurance companies will take advantage of the people who already have insurance and continue to raise their prices and there will still be millions of people who cant afford health care at all. I was in the government for 34 years and when they tell you that we had all these plans to choose from, they are exaggerating. Most of the policies were so expensive or had such high deductibles, I only had one choice which was BC/BS and they are getting more expensive every year. My son has no insurance and cant afford any of the insurances offered. We have to have an option based on income so everyone will be able to have care.

  • cjb

    We must have the public option. Without it, the insurance companies will take advantage of the people who already have insurance and continue to raise their prices and there will still be millions of people who cant afford health care at all. I was in the government for 34 years and when they tell you that we had all these plans to choose from, they are exaggerating. Most of the policies were so expensive or had such high deductibles, I only had one choice which was BC/BS and they are getting more expensive every year. My son has no insurance and cant afford any of the insurances offered. We have to have an option based on income so everyone will be able to have care.

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  • christio

    my friend has challenged me with this reply to a post I made about public option….help me help him see the light:

    “”I appreciate the dialog as well. It's nice to know that peopple can disagree without being called a racist nutjob.

    Medicare unfunded liability is nearly $89 TRILLION. That's 89 million billions of dollars. It is on a path to bankrupt our economy and has served as getting the camels nose under the tent. By increasing its scope and the # of people in that (or similar) system will only serve to increase those costs. Let's not double-down on a bad idea, lest that camel get all the way into the tent and we'd be totally effed.

    As I said before, I'm all about increasing access to insurance for people who do not have it, but when the govt increases it's control over anything, it increases control over our lives. Anytime govt gives you something, they can either take it away or use it as leverage to get you to do what “they”want you to do.

    A third party payer system is one where doctors and insurance companies negotiate prices, the consumer never fully understands the cost and therefore is a wasteful and ignorant consumer. What was originally intended as a way to offset the financial risk of catastrophic events has been perverted into a system where insurance is supposed to pay for every minor bump and bruise. Imagine how much car insurance would cost if it covered every repair your car every needed? By removing that direct cost from the consumer onto someone else, people would consume MUCH more autocare, demand would increase dramatically and the cost for an oil change might be in the hundreds of dollars. That's what happened to our health insurance system when people lost track of the actual costs of the services they demand.

    The polls you find on NPR and other places refer to the AMA, which represents only about 18% of doctors. When asked if they would leave their practice if govt cuts Medicare payments (as a way to pay for public option) 45% of doctors said they would consider quitting. Public option would INCREASE consumption while decreaing supply. Any Econ 101 student knows that will lead to shortages, longer waits, reduced quality and high costs. It's basic economics.

    I say we can pass laws that removes exclusion for pre-existing conditions and ends caps of coverage through the private market. The Dems plan only serves to increase the intrusion into our lives, and given their inability to serve us very well, expanding their role in my life is unacceptable to me.”

    any feedback appreciated and will be passed on :)

  • christio

    my friend has challenged me with this reply to a post I made about public option….help me help him see the light:

    “”I appreciate the dialog as well. It's nice to know that peopple can disagree without being called a racist nutjob.

    Medicare unfunded liability is nearly $89 TRILLION. That's 89 million billions of dollars. It is on a path to bankrupt our economy and has served as getting the camels nose under the tent. By increasing its scope and the # of people in that (or similar) system will only serve to increase those costs. Let's not double-down on a bad idea, lest that camel get all the way into the tent and we'd be totally effed.

    As I said before, I'm all about increasing access to insurance for people who do not have it, but when the govt increases it's control over anything, it increases control over our lives. Anytime govt gives you something, they can either take it away or use it as leverage to get you to do what “they”want you to do.

    A third party payer system is one where doctors and insurance companies negotiate prices, the consumer never fully understands the cost and therefore is a wasteful and ignorant consumer. What was originally intended as a way to offset the financial risk of catastrophic events has been perverted into a system where insurance is supposed to pay for every minor bump and bruise. Imagine how much car insurance would cost if it covered every repair your car every needed? By removing that direct cost from the consumer onto someone else, people would consume MUCH more autocare, demand would increase dramatically and the cost for an oil change might be in the hundreds of dollars. That's what happened to our health insurance system when people lost track of the actual costs of the services they demand.

    The polls you find on NPR and other places refer to the AMA, which represents only about 18% of doctors. When asked if they would leave their practice if govt cuts Medicare payments (as a way to pay for public option) 45% of doctors said they would consider quitting. Public option would INCREASE consumption while decreaing supply. Any Econ 101 student knows that will lead to shortages, longer waits, reduced quality and high costs. It's basic economics.

    I say we can pass laws that removes exclusion for pre-existing conditions and ends caps of coverage through the private market. The Dems plan only serves to increase the intrusion into our lives, and given their inability to serve us very well, expanding their role in my life is unacceptable to me.”

    any feedback appreciated and will be passed on :)

  • http://www.supercheaploans.co.uk Diabolique

    This is the qwleeirjoe article I have read in a iweroejilj

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