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March 02, 2007

As The Poll Turns...

It's good, every once in awhile, to dig through a comprehensive poll and see where the country's at. For instance, I wasn't aware that only 20 out of every 100 people approved of George W. Bush's job performance. I thought he'd have at least, oh, four more supporters in there. And I am surprised that only 23% of the country thinks the country is on the right track. That matches the low from May 2006, and the two are lower than at any point in the past 25 years. Bush's foreign policy and Iraq ratings have cratered, of course, but support for his handling of terrorism has also drifted downward, hitting a new low of 40% (53% disapprove). And only 24% approve his handling of health care, despite the fact that he used much of the State of the union to announce a new initiative on the subject.

Indeed, health care appears to be rising in salience, as 55% name "health insurance for all" as more important than reducing taxes, strengthening immigration laws, or even promoting traditional values. Further, 62% say the Democrats are the likeliest to improve the health care system, while only 19% name the Republicans. As it is, 54% of the country wants fundamental changes to the system, while 36% want to completely rebuild it. That's the highest number since 1993 -- and it's notable that it's not coming amidst a recession. This is an enduring trend, not a temporary squeeze. Indeed, 57% are dissatisfied with the quality of health care in the country, even as 77% are generally satisfied with the quality of care they receive. The unhappiness manifests in the next question, wherein 60% are dissatisfied with the overall cost of care, 52% are upset about what they personally pay.

What surprised me is that 61% say providing care to the uninsured is more important than keeping costs down for average Americans. 95% think the uninsured are a serious problem, and 63% think the government should guarantee care for all Americans. This drops, however, to 48% if it means individual costs will rise. That said, 76% say access to insurance is more important than retaining Bush's tax cut,s suggesting that John Edwards' formulation of using the cuts to pay for care may resonate. Indeed, 60% are willing to pay more in taxes to guarantee care and 49% remained willing when the pollsters specified an extra $500 in taxes per year.

These anxieties may be part of the reason the Republican Party is in such an image crisis, with only 34% rating them favorably, as compared to 48% approving of the Democrats. That's a moderately low number for the Dems, but an atypical pit for the Republicans. All this suggests health reformers have a real opportunity. But these numbers that existed in early 90s -- and reformers failed. The difference, though, is that the early 90s was a serious recession. The current anxiety comes from enduring trends in the system, and so may prove a more stable base for change.

Also at Tapped.

March 2, 2007 in Polls | Permalink


Apparently, a majority of Americans have bought into the myth - endlessly perpetuated in the media - of 47 million people without health insurance - and hence, without health care.

However, the 2005 U.S.Census Bureau Current Population Survey report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States (Table 8 on page 22), shows that over 17 million - more than one third - of the uninsured reside in households with annual incomes in excess of $50K.

Also, an April 26, 2005 article in the LA Times estimated that from 10 to 14 million of the uninsured are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP, but have not enrolled. Indeed, the actual number of Americans who can't get health insurance is much less than half of what is consistently reported. Various health care "reformers" don't feel the need to be honest about just who is uninsured while they strongly imply that health insurance equals medical care in order to press for total government health care financing - and the mainstream media is their dependable ally.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 12:34:24 PM

I would like to disagree with Stuart Browning and propose that people who do not have health insurance or Medicaid are not, in fact, insured.

And what does it matter if their income is greater than $50,000? That's not an infinite amount of money. If they have a serious medical condition, they will soon have no money at all, just like a person with income of $20,000 and no insurance. Also, that includes a lot of people whom no agency will insure for any amount of money because of preexisting conditions.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Mar 2, 2007 12:38:20 PM

Cryptic Ned - You may disagree with me, but you have not refuted anything I said.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:02:27 PM

Stuart, even if you make an adequate income it may be very difficult to obtain non-employer based insurance. Insurance is almost impossible to obtain once you have had any form of medical care. When my father retired, my perfectly healthy, well off mother was only able to purchase insurance that excluded her right leg because she had fractured it in an accident and been patched up with a plate. Try obtaining insurance after you've been treated for Hodgkin's or when you have a chronic disease like diabetes.

Medical costs are still a leading cause of bankruptcy (exacerbated, obviously, by the fact that long term illness is generally not compatible with continuing to earn a paycheck).

Medical care is not a "right" as you have stated on a previous post. However, we are a wealthy society and we can certainly chose to provide basic medical care, quality education, and make sure that everyone can achieve adequate nutrition and shelter in this country. Most of us leftists actually believe that the country is stronger and more productive if those basic lifestyle needs are met for as many people as possible.

Posted by: J Bean | Mar 2, 2007 1:08:11 PM

Browning your point is a red herring. Even if your fact is exactly right as you state it, it doesn't explain why Americans in general feel this way about healthcare. It's also a pretty bad number even if your number is exactly right. So you are saying 30 million or 10 percent of population isn't a bad number? If you are not saying that factoid as a misdirection then what's your point considering that still leaves 30 mil peo?

I think whenever these discussions come up there should be a red herring patrol to cut down on the inevitable irrelevant points. ie, well health care is bad because of torts, etc.

The reason why most Americans- if I had to guess (which I don't) have a problem with healthcare is not the 47 mil uninsured, it's the fact that they see their insurance going up by double the rate of inflation each year (at the least). Most of this is common sense- people can sense from their own situation that there is a problem. Trying to white wash it into your idealogical perspective doesn't change the fact that there is one.

Posted by: akaison | Mar 2, 2007 1:13:25 PM

I think the point of Stuart's post is twofold.
1) Those who push the "univesal healthcare as a right" agenda could certainly be more honest with the figures.
2) If you are really, really interested in helping poor people, get them on the existing programs that are now available to them. Its the easiest way to reduce this uninsured number. No new programs, no waiting for congress, etc.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 2, 2007 1:13:40 PM

This scares me a bit. I've come around over time to the idea that health care is an issue that really needs to be addressed. What scares me is that with public sentiment being what it is, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, combined with the potential for a democratic president and congress, we'll get a crappy solution that covers everyone, provides pour quality, all without addressing the underpinning issues driving healthcare costs up.

Posted by: Dan | Mar 2, 2007 1:14:36 PM

J Bean - Preexisting conditions aside, you have not addressed the point of my post. More than half of the 47 million are either eligible for Medicaid or can afford health insurance. What purpose is served by grotesquely exagerating the problem of the uninsured? Oh wait - I already answered that question.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:14:49 PM

Stuart, the reason there are a rising number of people that list health care as a major concern is not because they have started believing any "myths." Rather, it is because these people are more and more being personally affected by problems with the health care system.

Also: let's say your household has an income of $50,000. Heck, make it $60k. Say you get enough tax breaks that your household takes home $50k after FICA taxes and a small amount of federal and state income taxes are deducted. Family health insurance is $1000/month and rising, if you can get it at all. Americans are easily looking at the possibility of paying at least 25% of their income is going to pay health insurance.

The health care crisis has always hit the middle class the hardest. It's just hitting them harder now than it has in the past, so people are more concerned because they are PERSONALLY affected. Stuart, telling them, "your problems aren't really a big deal," isn't going to hold much weight with them, as their "lyin' eyes" are considered more believable than you are.

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 2, 2007 1:20:39 PM

Tyro - I could go into a lengthy explanation of how state and federal intervention into the medical market place drives up costs in thousands of ways. I could explain how anti-competitive state laws make insurance all but unaffordable for people in some states. But that would be off-point.

The issue, is why does the left lie about the problem of the uninsured? If government financing of all health care is the right course, why all the mendacity?

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:27:39 PM

can I just say that this is how every debate on issues with the right occurs? or the majority of them. I've said this on other threads, but do you notice the pattern? You spend much your time arguing about whether there is a) actually any facts b) whether there is actually any problem c) what's causing the problem once you finally get them to admit one exists d) figuring out a solution because your solution must still fit their idealogical perspective and on and on. You never ever start from- well this is what the American people are dealing with or anything like that unless its convenient to them.

For all these reasons, these debates are often just shellgames meant to obfuscate rather than shed light on what's being discussed.

Posted by: akaison | Mar 2, 2007 1:27:39 PM

I see- so the problem of the market is that the government is involved in the market, and if the governmetn went away all the problems of cost would go away. I am sure Stuard could write a lengthy post on missing the point, but that would be the point now wouldn't it.

Posted by: akaison | Mar 2, 2007 1:29:12 PM

Akaison - I can feel your frustration when facts are introduced into the collectivist echo chamber here.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:30:01 PM

Stuart you aren't introducing RELEVANT facts. That's the part you have a problem with understanding, but I do not, which is why I call your post what it is- a red herring. I can bring up any number of red herrings too, but I don't. I've never heard of polling data being referred to as an echo chamber. Interesting continued Orwellian manipulation of the conversation.

Posted by: akaison | Mar 2, 2007 1:34:56 PM

Akaison - Many Americans believe that there is a "crisis" of 47 million uninsured. This is the primary factor that motivates them to support the notion of government-provided health insurance. It is certainly relevant to the discussion that this number is a politically inflated number and is nowhere near true.

So once again, can you - or anyone - answer my question: Why does the left lie about the problem of the uninsured? If government financing of all health care is the right course, why all the mendacity?

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:38:42 PM

You claimed that people were listing health care as an increasing concern because they had supposedly "bought into the myth." I'm pointing out that they're listing health care as a rising concern because they, personally, are suffering the consequences of a crisis which you claim is a myth. There's a reason why many of the uninsured make more than $50,000/yr. One of those reasons is that since the poor can take advantage of medicaid, the cost of insurance is further and further out of reach of the middle class.

You can't find someone having trouble getting insurance or blowing a large portion of his income on insuring his family and scream, "there is no problem with the health insurance system or the uninsured! it's all a myth!" and expect him to take you seriously.

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 2, 2007 1:40:23 PM

Afford is the word. If they can afford health insurance, they can afford the tax to pay for universal health insurance. The problem has two dimensions - one being simply the uninsured, the other being the burden of a medical system depending mostly on private health insurance, which is borne mostly by the middle class, more and more vulnerable to cuts in their insurance through the tie in with job-related benefits. There is a meme on the right about "middle class entitlements", as though this was a bad thing. It isn't. It is like saying the skeleton in your body is a bad thing - too wimpy to walk without it, eh? The middle class is as large as it is precisely because of those entitlements - which allow the vaunted flexibility in the labor market, and all the rest.

So, the advantage of the universal health care is - a, taxes in a progressive system would shift the burden of paying for it more onto the wealthiest, where it should be; b, providing healthcare for the poorest; and c, giving the middle class the kind of social safety net allowing them to take other risks. In other words, it is like social security, or other government programs, a wonderful way to mesh capitalism with progressive state action.

Let's do it.

Posted by: roger | Mar 2, 2007 1:45:23 PM

we'll get a crappy solution that covers everyone, provides pour quality, all without addressing the underpinning issues driving healthcare costs up.

That's exactly my concern. All of these collectivists are so eager to rob peter to pay for paul's healthcare that they are not addressing the real underlying problem and that is the double digit annual inflation of healthcare costs. Instead, they attack the symptom.

It's not that I don't care about the uninsured, it's just that the 'conventional wisdom' here about universal insurance is not conventional nor is it wise. It simply will not address the problem.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 2, 2007 1:50:38 PM

Roger - I find your answer refreshingly honest. You admit that many of the uninsured can afford health insurance. And you want them to not only purchase it for themselves - but also for others of less means.

It's all about wealth distribution, not health care, isn't it? And so, the lie about 47 million without health care is justified.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:50:44 PM

Akaison, I think it is still important to argue with people who ignore all the relevant facts, because there are a lot of lurkers who will be persuaded by a conversation like this one that your position is reasonable and Stuart Browning's is obviously partisan and laughably insensitive to the concerns of real people.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Mar 2, 2007 1:55:09 PM

Akaison - Ah yes, the inevitable liberal moral posturing. Yes, you care - and opponents of collectivized medicine don't. So lying about a "crisis" of 47 million uninsured is just beside the point.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 1:59:05 PM

It's all about wealth distribution, not health care, isn't it?

All these years of paying renter's insurance, it turns out I've been distributing my hard-earned wealth to people who get robbed! My money is going into the pockets of people who get free stuff from the insurance company when they get robbed or have a fire in their apartment! It's the redistribution of wealth! It offends me!

And don't even get me started about the police! I pay a lot of money in taxes, and meanwhile the police department is spending my hard-earned money preventing crimes in poor neighborhoods in my city! It's a shameful act of wealth-redistribution to watch the city take money from taxpayers to defend poor people from criminals! Do these poor people think they have some kind of right to effective law enforcement?

Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 2, 2007 2:06:28 PM

Browning isn't bringing up "facts" at all. He's declaring insurance to be affordable to people of a certain income level without either acknowledging what insurance actually costs or where the people making $50,000/yr live. That amount of money doesn't buy as much in some parts of the country as it does in others, something true of individual health insurance as well as housing and food costs.

Mr. Browning then points out the number of people eligible for assistance who are not currently receiving said assistance, and of course blames them for it. Nevermind that one of the biggest problems in getting people to sign up for programs for which they are eligible is that money to advertise these programs is often either provided at a low level or not allocated at all.

He of course focuses on the "lie" of 47 million uninsured (which is a patently false claim, as I have shown) while ignoring the question of the 20-30 million people who, according to his own arguments, are neither able to afford health insurance on their own nor are they eligible for assistance. The reason is that he is not here to discuss ideas or persuade. He just wants to throw out a baseless accusation and then ignore anyone who points out the flaws in his arguments. Some people watch porn, others look at Sears catalogs. It's a free country. I just hope that Mr. Browning is able to finish, um, his little activity here and move along.

As a postscript, Cryptic Ned is actually right. People without health insurance, whatever the reason, are in fact uninsured, whereas Mr. Browning seems to believe that people with no health insurance are actually insured.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 2, 2007 2:06:59 PM

Stephen - I'd like to move along, but your falsehood about getting people to signup for medicare is just too rich.

At Parkland Hospital ER in Dallas, a facility that is a primary source of health care for the city's indigent population, patients with Medicaid and the uninsured are both given the same treatment by the same doctors. However, when Parkland employees attempt to enroll the uninsured for Medicaid so that the hospital will get paid, they are unsuccessful more than half the time.

It seems that these poor people know - more than you - that health insurance does not equal health care!

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 2:15:12 PM

Stephen - I'm not sure I understand your reference to pornography and Sears catalogs. Is this some sort of ad hominem attack? I guess it must make you angry when someone questions one of the most cherished myths of the health care left.

Posted by: Stuart Browning | Mar 2, 2007 2:20:41 PM

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