Majority in U.S. Say Healthcare Not Gov’t Responsibility

By Joy Wilke
Gallup, November 18, 2013

Poll: Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or that it is not the responsibility of the federal government?

Year   Yes No
2001   62  34
2002   62  35
2003   59  39
2004   64  34
2005   58  38
2006   69  28
2007   64  33
2008   54  41
2009   47  50
2010   47  50
2011   50  46
2012   44  54
2013   42  56
(Polls were taken in November each year)

The 56% of U.S. adults who now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage continues to reflect a record high. Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare.

The most recent data were collected in Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 7-10. The percentage of U.S. adults who said it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have healthcare coverage peaked at 69% in 2006. Attitudes began to shift significantly in 2007, and continued to change through the time President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Americans who feel healthcare coverage is not the federal government’s responsibility have been in the clear majority the past two years.

Attitudes across all three partisan groups have shifted away from the view that ensuring healthcare coverage is a proper role of government, but most significantly among Republicans and independents. In September 2000, 53% of Republicans believed the government should not be responsible for ensuring all Americans had health coverage; today, 86% feel that way, an increase of 33 percentage points in 13 years. Over the same period, the percentage of Republicans believing the government should ensure healthcare coverage for all has fallen from 42% to 12%.

Fifty-five percent of independents currently say the government should not be involved with healthcare — an increase of 28 points since 2000.

The percentage of Democrats who hold this view is now 30%, its highest level since Gallup first asked the question and an 11-point increase since 2000 — with the largest change in opinion occurring between 2006 and 2008.


Americans’ attitudes toward the government’s role in ensuring all Americans have access to affordable healthcare have changed substantially over the past decade. These changes began before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and concurrently with the financial crisis of 2008 and Obama’s first presidential campaign and election. Although Democrats are now somewhat more likely compared with 2000 to say the government should stay away from healthcare, much of the shift in attitudes against government intervention has stemmed from changes among Republicans and independents. It is possible that this sharp change has been caused by a politicization of the issue as it became a major part of Obama’s campaign platform, and as he and other Democratic leaders pressed for and passed the ACA, sometimes called “Obamacare,” in 2010.

The continuing implementation of the ACA over the coming months and years will surely continue to shape Americans’ attitudes toward the federal government’s role in this area. It is not clear how the ACA’s troubled rollout to date will affect attitudes over the next year. But as the debate about the implementation of the new healthcare law has unfolded, Americans have become less likely than ever to agree that the federal government should be responsible for making sure that all Americans have healthcare.…

Link for graph of trend since 2000:…

Obama’s Gift to the Republicans

By Robert Kuttner
Huff Post Politics, November 17, 2013

The Affordable Care Act, as a government mandate for people to purchase private insurance with an array of possible subsidies, had too many moving parts. It was an accident waiting to happen.

As many of us wrote at the time, Medicare for All would be simpler to execute, easier to understand, and harder for Republicans to oppose.

But this was not to be. Instead we got a program that was poorly understood by the public because it was almost impossible to explain and even harder to execute.

At the time the law was passed, administration leaders and many commentators compared the Affordable Care Act to Social Security and Medicare. The analogy was never apt. These great achievements are public programs, efficient to administer and testament to the fact that government can serve social objectives far more effectively than the private sector.

Obamacare, by contrast, is the inefficiency of “public-private partnerships” at its worst. It is a public subsidy for the private insurance industry. No fewer than 55 separate contractors were hired to design the software. Yet though it is not a true public program worthy of the name, Obamacare is being used to discredit government.…

Although we always have to be careful that we don’t read too much into polls, this particular result showing that a majority of Americans have decided that health care is not the responsibility of the federal government does provide support to Robert Kuttner’s statement, “Obamacare is being used to discredit government.”

Looking at the graph (link above, or use the columns of numbers above), in November of 2009 opinions shifted. This was close to the completion of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, following a summer of vicious, partisan and tea party “death panel” attacks on the proposed reform legislation. In the past two years, as opponents kept up their shrill attack on Obamacare, the divide became even greater. The last poll showing a 14 percent margin for those believing that health care coverage should not be a responsibility of the federal government was taken one month after the bungled rollout of

Many have suggested that once the computer glitches are ironed out, people will be very pleased with Obamacare, and the surge in anti-government views will subside. Anyone who has followed the reform process knows that couldn’t be true. Anger will increase when people find out that their deductibles are unaffordable, that some of their hospitals and physicians have been shut out of the provider networks, and that costs will continue to escalate for lack of adequate policies to contain costs.

For us to remain on the sidelines to let this play out can only intensify the view of the public that the federal government should not be involved, considering how badly our leaders have screwed up this effort. Especially at this time of intense anger and disgust over the botched rollout, it is imperative that we immediately intensify our efforts to get the public to understand that they are right when they critique Obamacare. Much more importantly, we need for them to understand the differences between good governance, bad governance, and too little governance, when it comes to health care.

Decades of too little governance is why our health care system is in the mess it is. Further reducing the role of government can only compound the problems of high costs, poor quality, and impaired access. We need government to be involved, but in the right way, not the wrong way.

Since the neo-liberals took over the Democratic party, “the era of big government is over.” They rejected a model based on the most popular health care program this nation has seen – Medicare. They decided that we needed a public/private solution – private insurance with a welfare program for those who couldn’t financially support the insurance industry. The progressives lost their spine and joined in, realizing that the neo-liberals controlled their party. This set us up for bad governance. The blame does not lie with the institution of government, but it lies with bad decisions made by the people we selected to run the government.

So what should our message be to those who say that it is not government’s responsibility? The private insurers have had over half of a century to prove their worth, and they’ve failed us miserably. We need the government, but it needs to be OUR government. We need to demand Medicare for all from our politicians, or, failing that, we need to replace them.

We need the support of the people – the majority who now believe that the government isn’t the solution. Our most intensive efforts must be directed to educating people that they are spending far too much on the private insurers for too little in return. In contrast, Medicare offers us a much better deal, but it can be improved. After all, it is our government, and we should have control.

The responsibility lies with the people. We need to exercise that responsibility through a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. We need to dump the anti-government rhetoric because we’re talking about ourselves.