Popularity Of Public Health Insurance Option
The possibility of a government-supported public option for an affordable health insurance is closer than ever, though not without controversy. President Obama has endorsed it, but the majority of Democratic politicians have shied away from supporting it. Republicans have expressed their opposition, warning that a system similar to that of Canada and Western Europe would lead to rationed and lower-quality health care. These worries have received a substantial amount of attention in the press; however, it appears that a majority of Americans in a CBS News poll (62%) favor a government health insurance plan akin to Medicare, which often cooperates with private insurance companies.
Healthcare reform opponents have seen some success in convincing others of their view; there was 10% higher support for a government-run health insurance option in June, before the famously town hall meetings which presented congresspersons on recess with passionate opponents of the public option. Those on Medicare have generally positive views of the program, though there are complaints of governmental bureaucracy and inefficiency, as well as insufficient payments to doctors. When the reference to Medicare is removed, a lower but still surprisingly high percentage of people, 53 percent, expressed support for the government offering a health insurance plan.
Does this mean that a public option in the health care reform bill is guaranteed? First, Senate and House of Representatives committees have to meld their bills together in order to submit a uniform bill to both chambers of Congress. While the House is relatively open to the public option, it's very unlikely that the Senate will allow any health insurance reform bill including it to pass. The Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate, barely enough to pass any reform bill. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican who has voted in favor of healthcare reform, will almost certainly oppose a government-run health insurance option, while several conservative Democrats have also expressed their misgivings. While Obama would definitely sign a bill with the public option included, it's unclear if he would settle for reform without a Medicare For All-style program.
Many Americans agree that the current health insurance system isn't ideal. It is not affordable for an estimated 40 million Americans. However, they disagree about what should be done. A significant minority of Americans, including 57% of Republicans, are not in favor of what they consider socialized medicine and will not go down without a fight in this health care battle.
This battle of how to fix the health care and insurance system also reflects a generation gap: the public option is supported by almost 70% of people under the age of 45, but only 49% of those over age 65. There are several possible explanations for this, including the fact that more younger people tend to be uninsured (as opposed to senior citizens, who already have Medicare) and that the younger demographic is more liberal-leaning in general. Regardless of what Congress decides to do with health care reform, it will spark much debate among their constituents.
Written by Yamileth Medina. She is an up-and-coming expert on the health insurance industry. She strives to provide balanced facts about health care reform and other issues in an easily understood manner. Yamileth lives in Miami, Florida.