KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Polls: Public Cooling To Health Reform As Debate Continues

MSNBC First Read: "As the Senate sprints to pass a health-care bill by Christmas, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that those believing President Obama's health-reform plan is a good idea has sunk to its lowest level." The poll, which was conducted Dec. 11 - Dec. 14, found that 32 percent of those surveyed "say it's a good idea, versus 47 percent who say it's a bad idea. In addition, for the first time in the survey, a plurality prefers the status quo to reform. By a 44-41 percent margin, respondents say it would be better to keep the current system than to pass Obama's health plan" (Murray, 12/16).

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports on another poll -- this one was released earlier today. "As the Senate struggles to meet a self-imposed, year-end deadline to complete work on legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care system, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the public generally fearful that a revamped system would bring higher costs while worsening the quality of their care." According to the Post, "[a] bare majority of Americans still believe government action is needed to control runaway health-care costs and expand coverage to the roughly 46 million people without insurance."

"More than half of those polled, 53 percent, see higher costs for themselves if the proposed changes go into effect than if the current system remains intact. ... 37 percent say the quality of their care would be better under a new system; 50 percent see it as better under the current set-up." The Post reports that the poll found the uninsured -- nearly one in 5 adult Americans doesn't have coverage -- "are evenly divided on the question of whether their care would be better if the system were overhauled" (Balz and Cohen, 12/16). 

ABC News: The poll finds that opposition to the health care reform legislation had increased. The "7-point margin for opposition, 51-44 percent, is its most to date – indeed statistically significant for the first time – and the differential in intensity of sentiment has grown since September." 

"Americans by 2-1, 45 percent to 22 percent, think reform would weaken rather than strengthen the popular Medicare system; seniors in particular think so, by 57 percent vs. 12 percent." But the poll found support for "the idea of extending Medicare to cover people 55 and older who don't have other insurance; 63 percent are in favor, a sizable majority albeit down from 75 percent in 2006. ... There's a much sharper split on a public option for people who are uninsured vs. a program, as proposed in the Senate, in which the federal government would negotiate with private insurers for this coverage. Thirty-six percent prefer the former; 30 percent, the latter; and an additional 30 percent say the current system simply should be left as it is." The poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 10-13, 2009, and it has a 3.5-point error margin for the full sample (ABC Polling Unit, 12/15).

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