Friday, November 13, 2009

Is health care the government's responsibility

Some encouragement from a recent Gallop poll:
More Americans now say it is not the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government's responsibility.
I have to say, I'm surprised by these results -- surprised that most Americans could identify anything they don't feel is the government's responsibility. Looking at the graph in the article, I note that the numbers on this question jump around significantly over time, so the results probably have a lot to do with who is in power and what they're up to, as well as the state of the economy. Still, I would have bet against a result like this and hope it's a continuing trend.

On the downside, the poll found this:
Most polling shows that Americans tend to favor a "public option" in which the government would provide a healthcare plan that would not be mandatory but one of several options for those seeking healthcare insurance. Americans apparently do not equate this with government's guaranteeing that all Americans have healthcare coverage.
This result doesn't surprise me, though it continues to disappoint me. I understand that when something is presented as an "option" that exists apart from the current system, it's very tempting. But the best available analysis, including that by the Congressional Budget Office, suggests that the "public option" wouldn't exist apart from what we have now. It would drain tax dollars, increase health care costs, and shrink the private insurance industry.

I believe if Americans were better informed about this, most would oppose the "public option." But perception trumps reality, and I doubt conservatives will make any headway in educating the public on this.

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