National Press Club

Poll Indicates Ambivalence Toward Health Insurance Reform

July 16, 2009 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. | mschoeff@workforce.com

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As Congress works to meet a summer deadline for producing House and Senate health care reform legislation, Americans are expressing ambivalence, according to a new poll released at a July 15 Newsmaker.

The online survey of 3,862 conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Zogby International Inc. shows that 46 percent support a “public option” government-sponsored insurance plan and 44 percent back an expanded government role in health care.

The public option, which has been called Medicare for people younger than 65, is a key component of the House health care bill that was introduced on July 14. An online Zogby poll of 2,059 adults also released at the Newsmaker shows that 50 percent oppose the measure while 42 percent support it.

The question in the survey described the bill as establishing the public option, requiring individuals to purchase health insurance and companies to provide it for their employees and taxing wealthy individuals to finance the plan.

The University of Texas-Zogby poll indicates that the public is not clamoring for immediate change, as 84 percent of the respondents said they are satisfied with their health care. But 79 percent said that health care costs are hurting business.

“I feel a little bit like the designated driver at the party,” said S. Ward Casscells, a distinguished professor and vice president for policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center and former assistant secretary of defense for health. “The poll is sobering. There‘s less support for sweeping health care reform than we expected.”

Part of the reason may be that the public feels “a bit of sacrifice overload” caused by recent massive government intervention to stimulate the economy, prop up the financial industry and bailout automakers, according to John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby inernational, a research and marketing firm based in Utica, N.Y.

“What we see is no consensus on proposed (health care) solutions,” Zogby said. “It is never really tilted in one direction or another. Americans are in a very, very cautious mood.”

Zogby participated in the Newsmaker remotely from New York through video conferencing technology provided by the Club. A webcast of the event is available at www.visualwebcaster.com/healthreform . For more information about video conferencing, contact Howard Rothman hrothman@press.org on the Club staff.