Polls Find Public Support For Health Overhaul Losing Steam
Two new polls show support for President Barack Obama's health care efforts slipping over the past month.
Over the past five weeks, support has declined "particularly among those who already have insurance, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found, amid prolonged debate over costs and quality of care," The Wall Street Journal reports. "In mid-June, respondents were evenly divided when asked whether they thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good or bad idea. In the new poll, conducted July 24-27, 42% called it a bad idea while 36% said it was a good idea. ... Declining popularity of the health-care overhaul reflects rising anxiety over the federal budget deficit and congressional debate over the most contentious aspects of the legislation, including how to pay for it. The poll also shows concern over the role of government in determining personal medical decisions."
In the poll, "only two in 10 people said the quality of their own care would improve under the Obama plan; just 15% of those with private insurance thought it would. Support for former President Bill Clinton's health plan hovered in similar territory in 1994 on its way to defeat. But the Clinton plan never made it as far in Congress as the Obama effort has this year." In an effort to "regain momentum, Mr. Obama is shifting his pitch to new consumer-protection rules for insurance companies, part of a bid to win over Americans who already have coverage" (Meckler, 7/30).
A New York Times/CBS News poll found that "President Obama's ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray his overhaul plan as a government takeover that could limit Americans' ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment," The New York Times reports. "Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the poll found."
But "there appears to be a strong desire to get something done: 49 percent said they supported fundamental changes, and 33 percent said the health care system needed to be completely rebuilt. The poll found 66 percent of respondents were concerned that they might eventually lose their insurance if the government did not create a new health care system, and 80 percent said they were concerned that the percentage of Americans without health care would continue to rise if Congress did not act" (Nagourney and Thee-Brenan, 7/29). As part of its coverage, CBS posted the poll.
Politico reports that health care legislation has "engaged the minds of many of the country's smartest and most-informed economists and public policy engineers. But, as the health care battle enters a critical phase - with lawmakers about to greet constituents during summer recess - the reality is that the outcome will probably be shaped less by the intelligence of advocates on any side than by the ignorance of most Americans." In fact, even lawmakers admit to being stumped by the concept. "All sides of the debate are facing the same essential challenge: How to boil down arguments that flummox even veteran legislators into simple appeals that will engage an easily distracted, easily flustered electorate. The burden may rest more heavily on supporters of reform, since time - and the daily crossfire of dueling talking points and legislative showdowns - seems to be increasing public doubt about the merits of reform."
".... a Pew Research Center poll last week that found that 63 percent of people find health reform 'hard to understand,' while 34 percent think it is 'easy to understand.'" Meanwhile, "The complexity creates an opening for opponents of reform, and they're diving in. As Democrats try to make a thousand small points to deal with different constituencies on and off the Hill, Republicans can make one big one: This is going to cost a whole lot of money" (McGrane and Lerer, 7/30).
The Sacramento Bee: "...the broad strokes being discussed in Washington, D.C., are not translating well for average American consumers who are scratching their heads as they sift through details many still undefined they hope will yield results for a troubled health care system" (Calvan, 7/30).