Let's not lose sight of the multiple polls this past week reporting a similar finding:
Across a number of questions, the poll detected substantial support for a greater government role in health care, a position generally identified with the Democratic Party. When asked which party was more likely to improve health care, only 18 percent of respondents said the Republicans, compared with 57 percent who picked the Democrats. Even one of four Republicans said the Democrats would do better.
The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.
Republicans in Congress have fiercely criticized the proposal as an unneeded expansion of government that might evolve into a system of nationalized health coverage and lead to the rationing of care.
But in the poll, the proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.
And from Pew last week:
There continues to be widespread support for changing the health care system so that all Americans have insurance that covers all medically necessary care: 75% favor this currently, while 21% are opposed. However, the percentage favoring this proposal is down from 83% in April 1993. Similarly, while a large majority (61%) believes it is very important to limit annual increases in health care costs, fewer say that now than did so 16 years ago (69%).
When asked which is more important – to control annual cost increases or guarantee all Americans access to needed care – a majority (56%) says that it is more important to provide access to necessary medical care for all Americans while 36% say it is more important to control health care costs. In 1993, the public also opted for guaranteed access to care for all, but by a greater margin (74% to 20%).
Perhaps the most important change since 1993 is in the public’s assessment of how much change the current health care system needs. In April 1993, a majority (55%) said the system needed to be completely rebuilt, 26% said it needed fundamental changes, while 15% said it needed only minor changes. Today, fewer than half (41%) say the system needs to be completely rebuilt, while 30% say it requires fundamental change and 24% say the system works pretty well and needs only minor changes.
We noted at the time:
That matches what we see from NBC/WSJ, by the way, also at 75% support for "public option". Nearly three quarters (71) want either fundamental change (30), or a complete rebuild (41) if the system, so tweaks around the edges won't do it.
Nate Silver helps us out with a nice health care poll round-up over at fivethirtyeight.com (he didn't include CBS/NY Times, but has the other recent polls all in one place):
Nate gives his own ratings of each of the pollsters for wording, non-partisanship, sample size/selection and overall informativeness (and gives Kaiser high marks, not surprisingly. Their polling unit specializes in health questions and they have a great track record.) What I'd add to Nate's analysis is that the big media polls set narrative over at the networks and newspapers in ways the Kaiser poll does not.
In any case, Congress needs a better feel for what the public wants, not just what their colleagues want. They will get that when they go home in August for the recess.
The trick is to have a decent proposal on the table before then.