Majority favors public plan and broader coverage

Public opinion is swinging toward fundamental changes in the way America’s health care industry operates, a poll taken earlier this month shows.
A New York Times/CBS News poll taken June 12-16 showed:
— Seventy-two percent of the 895 adults interviewed supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed. Moreover, half of those who call themselves Republicans said they support a public plan, along with three-fourths of independents and almost 90 percent of Democrats.
— Fifty-seven percent said they thought the Democratic Party would be most likely to improve health care; only 18 percent picked the Republican Party.
— An overwhelming 85 percent said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt — but 77 percent said they were satisfied with their own health care.
— Half of the respondents said they thought government would be better at providing medical coverage than private insurers and nearly 60 percent thought Washington would have more success in holding costs down.
— Sixty-four percent said they thought the federal government should guarantee coverage and 60 percent said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to make certain everyone had coverage, with 40 percent saying they would pay as much as $500 more a year to achieve that goal.
The survey had a plus or minus 3 percent sampling error rate, the New York Times report stated.
Concerns were also revealed in the survey: Half to two-thirds said they worried that if the government guaranteed health coverage, they would see declines in the quality of their own care and in their ability to choose doctors and get needed treatment. One respondent said, “It is the responsibility of the government to guarantee insurance for all. But my own care will get worse because they’ll have to limit care in order to cover everyone.”
The wide-ranging poll also discovered that a large majority favored requiring insurance companies to cover everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Only a fifth supported taxing employer-provided insurance as income in order to pay a part of the cost of universal coverage and many were undecided about proposals to require employers to provide insurance or pay into a fund that would subsidize insurance for the uninsured.
The public showed an understanding of the im-pact of medical costs on the federal budget — 86 percent said rising costs posed a serious economic threat.

THE PROOF of public support for expanding health care coverage to the 45 million or more Americans now without insurance will come later, when the details have been decided and a price tag is attached.
Advocates can find hope, however, in the fact that Barack Obama was elected on a promise to accomplish that goal and carried solid majorities in the House and Senate into office along with him. They can also cite the examples set by na-tions around the globe which have universal health care coverage and spend 30 percent less than does the United States while exceeding the U.S. performance in health care outcomes in several cases.
If Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and England can provide good health care to all of their citizens while spending much, much less per capita, so can we.
The transition will be painful and difficult. But it must be made to avoid a financial meltdown a very short distance down the road.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.