Pollster.com Editor Mark Blumenthal wades through the confusion about recent polling on health care reform attitudes in his post “Health Care Goals: Cost, Coverage or Both?” and makes a key point reform advocates should keep in mind in discerning trends in public opinion on the topic:
…Democratic pollster Mark Mellman attempts to make sense out of some very divergent obtained by national pollsters recently on the question of whether Americans consider controlling costs or expanding access to coverage the more important goal for health care reform. The column is worth reading in full, but I want to add one thought: I’m not a fan of the costs-or-coverage question….
Blumenthal then presents recent data from seven different polls, all of which share one thing in common:
…All of the questions above force respondents to choose between the goals of reducing costs and expanding access to coverage. What if they feel strongly about both goals?
The new USA Today/Gallup results released this week suggest that many Americans do exactly that. Their survey begins with a list of ways health care reform “might affect you personally,” and asks respondents to rate the importance of each. They find:
86% rate “being able to get health insurance regardless of your job status or medical situation” as at least very important (including 43% who consider it extremely important)….83% rate “making your health insurance more affordable” as at least very important (including 40% who consider it extremely important).
Conceptually, both goals involve the issue of costs. Most Americans understand that if they lose their job or attempt to purchase insurance with a pre-existing condition their personal costs will be significantly higher than with ordinary, employer-provided health coverage. So it would not surprise me that many Americans have trouble disentangling the goals of cost and access to coverage.
…The notion that Americans worry mostly rising health care costs or mostly about covering everyone can mislead us about what those Americans who want it really want out of health care reform. It’s not about cost or access to coverage. It’s about both.
Hopefully, members of Congress will take Blumenthal’s reasoning into account, as they try to figure out what their constituents want. As Ed Kilgore pointed out yesterday in his TDS post on “The Less-Information Lobby,” there is nothing wrong with more polling data, especially if it is interpreted with common sense.