Kaiser Health Tracking Poll
Kaiser Family Foundation
April 2-8, 2009
7. Now I’m going to read you some different ways to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance. As I read each one, please tell me whether you would favor it or oppose it. Here’s the (first/next) one — (INSERT AND RANDOMIZE- ALWAYS ASK ITEMS d AND h LAST). Do you favor or oppose this? (Is that strongly favor/oppose or somewhat favor/oppose?)
Items b-d based on half sample (n=616)
Items e-h based on half sample (n=587)
a. Requiring employers to offer health insurance to their workers or pay money into a government fund that will pay to cover those without insurance
b. Offering tax credits to help people buy private health insurance
c. Expanding Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64 who do not have health
d. Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans
e. Expanding state government programs for low-income people, such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
f. Requiring all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with financial help for those who can’t afford it
g. Having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan
h. Creating a public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans
Two-thirds to three-fourths of Americans support each of the reform options listed, except one. Americans are fairly evenly divided on “Having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan.”
This is not a fluke. When the same survey was conducted in December, 2008 (minus the questions on public health insurance options), the results were very similar.
We could speculate as to why this poll seems to indicate less support for a single payer national health program than do other polls. Factors such as phrasing, context, demographics of the population polled, and so forth could explain the variation in the responses. If so, that would suggest that single payer support is quite malleable. That would mean that the threshold of a mandate for single payer reform has not yet been reached.
My opinion, which some may dispute, is that healthy Americans, who have good jobs and what they perceive to be adequate, employer-financed health care coverage, are not yet ready to trade that insurance in for an unknown government program which they assume they would have to pay for themselves, either through a premium or through higher taxes.
Pretending that the majority of Americans would risk their current health security for a more egalitarian system for everyone will not move the process for reform forward. Only when people understand that a single payer system would benefit them individually would they be willing to support reform that incidentally benefits everyone else as well.
We still have work to do.