Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New AARP Poll: 86 Percent Say Insurance Should be Available to All

New AARP Poll: 86 Percent Say Insurance Should be Available to All

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Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:20:05 PM PDT

A new poll [pdf] from AARP, National Journal and Penn, Schoen & Berland shows strong support for universal health coverage--86 percent, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. Large majorities also reject paying more in either insurance premiums (74%) or taxes (64%) to expand access to care.

That's not the most striking finding. Asked whether they would support or oppose "a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can't afford private plans offered to them" 79 percent supported it, including 89 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and 61 percent of Republicans. As for the government's responsibility for health care, this is perhaps the most profound finding:

Independents are the key swing vote, and 73% of them believe that the government should be most financially responsible for making sure that Americans have access to affordable, quality care.

Furthermore, 4 out of 5 Independents support the creation of a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can't afford private plans offered to them ­ the essence of the so-called "public option." But with Congress deadlocked over these issues­ and 75% of Independents stating that any eventual health care legislation should be bipartisan ­there is clearly much hard work ahead if health reform is to happen this year, despite the fact that Americans still trust President Obama most to do the right thing on the issue.

This is one of the dangers of the continued discussion of "bipartisanship" in the debate coming out of the White House and Senate--it set up an expectation for bipartisanship where it can't exist, because the Republicans refuse to play. There's a glimmer of good news in that for Obama, though, in that trust that Americans give him in the issue, including 51 percent of Independents. It means that when Obama says that Republicans are refusing to participate, Americans are going to believe him. It just means that he's going to have to start setting that narrative soon if he really wants action on comprehensive healthcare reform before the end of the year, and particularly if Democrats are going to have to do it through reconciliation.

There's another critical communication problem for Obama and for Democrats, though, when it comes to what the "public option" is:

Very few (only 37%) are able to correctly define the term "public option," even when given only 3 options to choose from. (That's nearly the equivalent probability that one would expect if everyone were just guessing.)  And when asked to categorize supporters and opponents, Americans tend to expect a landscape similar to 1993 – when pharmaceutical and health insurance companies and lobbyists united in opposition to proposed reforms – rather than grasp the reality of 2009's process, which has garnered some support from such parties.

Speaking abou this finding last night at the release of the survey in Denver, the poll sponsors discussed the problem of the label "public option" versus the huge support it receives when couched as "a new federal health insurance plan."

"These two words have become radioactive, they have been swift-boated," said William Mann, senior vice president of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. "There is a real misunderstanding."


"There is so much more educating that needs to be done across the board on various health care reform options," said Morie Smile, interim director of Colorado's AARP office. "Nobody seems to have a firm grasp on the vocabulary. It's either a sacred cow or a punching bag."

The concept is overwhelmingly popular, because the majority of people know the system is broken, know it needs to be fixed, and are concerned about their own health security:

56% say that it is more important than ever that we address health care reform. When asked what they're most worried about when it comes to health care, respondents focus on rising costs, including insurance premium and prescription drug price hikes and the prospect of not being able to afford health insurance.


Consistent with their reluctance to pay more in taxes or premiums, large majorities of Americans name everyday issues like premium costs and prescription drug costs as issues that worry them most. The degree of worry on these issues is pronounced, with over 40% of all Americans reporting that they are "very worried" about them. The daily issues outrank other, major catastrophic events like going bankrupt. Medicare coverage ranks lowest of the concerns, with people over and under 50 years old equally concerned.

This poll mirrors all of the others we've seen, including the recent SurveyUSA poll showing 77 percent support for a public option. The people want, the people need it, and the president and the political party that deliver it will reap the benefits. They just have to be fearless enough to make it happen.

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Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos!
Peter S. Lopez {aka:Peta}
Sacramento, California,Aztlan
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