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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Cost Concerns Drive Opinions Favoring Public Option

In his latest ‘Public Opinion Snapshot’ at the Center for American Progress web pages, TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira explains why the “public option” for health care reform is drawing strong support in opinion polls:

…A recent CBS/New York Times poll showed 72 percent favoring “the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan—something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get—that would compete with private health insurance plans,” compared to just 20 percent who were opposed.
Why is support for a public plan running so high? The chief reason is the public’s overriding concern with health care costs. Polls consistently show that people are most dissatisfied about health care costs, both for themselves and for the country as a whole.
This pattern is nicely illustrated by data from a March CNN poll showing 17 percent dissatisfied with the quality of the health care they receive, 26 percent dissatisfied with their health care coverage, 48 percent dissatisfied with their total health care costs, and 77 percent dissatisfied with the country’s total health care costs.

Distrust of private insurers plays a major role in shaping public opinion, as Teixeira notes:

…They have little faith that private insurance companies, left to their own devices, can deal with this problem. In fact, they believe by a wide 59-26 margin that the government—and not private insurance companies—can do a better job holding down health care costs.
…In an April Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the public, by 57-39, said the “better way to encourage health insurance companies to provide the best product for the lowest price” is to have private insurance companies and a public plan compete with one another instead of private insurance companies competing amongst themselves.

In building a health care reform consensus, Dems would do well to base a good part of their pitch on the public option’s advantage in containing costs — which Teixeira terms “both good policy and good politics.”

One comment on “Cost Concerns Drive Opinions Favoring Public Option

  1. drjonz on

    As a physician I am interested in restoring the voice my patients lost many years ago when 3rd party payment became routine. As Dr. Woolhandler puts it, “Third party insurance is a defective product.” And even though she would disagree giving the government the job of being the insurer doesn’t fix the defect. Our health care system has been led by the profiteers for long enough to be the perfect vehicle for their profitable businesses. To give government the reins of this system is to hobble its innovation. Only with people in control, making informed decisions with the help of an adequately funded public health sector helping with the information, and having the ability themselves to pay for minor services with an insurance back-up for major expenses, will the system have the leaders it needs.


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