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Mar. 30 2010 - 7:25 pm | 245 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

Public Still Interested in the Public Option

We’ve all been watching various polls come out charting the public mood around Obama and Democrats’ health care reform recently passed on a what seems like almost a day by day basis. By now we are all familiar with the already heavily used talking point saying that a majority of Americans disapprove of or oppose the Democrats’ reforms as represented by the below Pollster graph,

What we haven’t heard much about, though it was the topic of hot debate just months ago, is the public option and the effect its demise had on perceptions about health care reform. It is is sort of taken at face that any and all disapproval numbers represent those folks who feel the reform is some form of socialized medicine or a government take-over. But as I suggested last week, this might not necessarily be the case in all instances.

For the purposes of this site, I have focused a lot on the public option because once it became inevitable that some sort of reform was going to pass, killing the public option became the primary concern of most corporate health care lobbyists. And they were successful in that regard, if not in scuttling reform altogether.The poll in question last week did not include sufficiently parsed data to determine whether those who expressed either disapproval or a non-committal attitude towards health care reform were doing so because of the lack of public option, though I’ll admit to some speculation on my part. Two more recent polls do not have the same problem.

USA Today has a new poll out with the ostensible purposes of demonstrating how a majority of Americans feel that the recent overhaul is too expensive and expands the scope of government too much. Indeed, they have the numbers to back those claims up.

What the story doesn’t talk about and which is, to my mind, the more interesting statistic coming out of the poll, is that 52% of respondents believe the plan should include a public option and 51% of respondents felt that the reforms didn’t go far enough in regulating the health care industry.

Call me crazy, but those are significant, if not startling numbers. They certainly fly in the face of conventional wisdom around the public’s perceptions of the Bill.

Adele M. Stan of AlterNet has an interesting take on the numbers in USA Today’s poll,

If 64 percent say the new health-care set-up “will cost the government too much” — assuming this conclusion is drawn from the cost of subsidies for those who can’t afford the premiums charged through the new insurance exchanges by insurance corporations — and 52 percent say they want a public option, it sounds to me like 52 percent think a public option would have been a better deal for the taxpayer.

Even if I’m reading too much into my back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit analysis here, at the very least the poll suggests that more than half the American public would like to have seen a more progressive health-care reform scheme.

Indeed, the USA Today poll isn’t the only place this kind of sleight of hand seems to be taking place. CNN also has a newly minted poll out that explores the divisions among Americans towards repealing the Bill. The CNN poll notes that while a majority (56%) of Americans oppose the Bill, only 42% of those are interested in repealing the Bill.

CNN’s polling director, Keating Holland also had this to say,

That’s because opposition to the new law comes in many different forms and not all of them benefit the GOP[.] Some Americans continue to say that they disapprove of the bill because they want even more government involvement in health care than the bill created. Only a quarter are against the entire bill; one in three support at least a few proposals in the new law. And a handful of Americans appear to dislike the bill but don’t want Congress to spend any more time on health care.

Which is more credence to the idea that opposition isn’t of a universal spot or stripe than was paid by USA Today in their article. But digging into the full text of the CNN poll reveals an equally interesting, if not slightly more modest, fact about public mood towards the Bill.

While 47% of respondents believed that the Bill should be repealed and replaced, a full 50% of respondents feel the Bill should remains law. Of those 50%, more than half (27%) feel the Bill should be expanded to increase the government’s involvement in the nation’s health care system. The poll doesn’t specifically name the public option, but one can make a reasonable guess that such an expansion would look something like the forgone public option. Again, these are more modest numbers, but they aren’t insignificant by any stretch.

And yet none of this seems to be making its way to the public debate and Republicans continue unabated in describing the kind of animosity towards the Bill that doesn’t truly accurately reflect where a substantial number of Americans are in regards to health care reform. The main stream media seems largely intent on remaining implicit in this burying of the popularity of the public option, or at least casting it as much more remote and fringist than it actually is.

But it is worth noting by these numbers that when people like Jane Hamsher, Howard Dean, Alan Grayson, Dennis Kucinich, and Matt Taibbi talk about the broad popularity of the pubic option and that it was a fundamental failing of Democrats that momentum in really reshaping the American health care system by introducing the option in legislation was allowed to die on the vain, letting down literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, they aren’t just blowing smoke. And if the patch in “pass and patch” is going to result in a real public policy win for Americans who are actually interesting in reforming their system of health care, then this is a conversation that those Americans are going to have to keep alive, themselves.


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  1. collapse expand

    Except that it isn’t a “reform” bill…it’s a power grab….

    Name the ten top “health” “reforms” in the bill….how does this bill make me more healthier today than I was two week ago before it was passed?

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    About Me

    I'm a Canadian blogger who spends far too much time reading and writing about US politics. I've been involved in various forms of political organizing for the past decade, some of which has earned me recognition and other of which has earned me the title of "no good punk".

    I also blog at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the Commons, Beams and Struts, and The Washington Examiner's Opinion Zone.

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    Contributor Since: March 2010
    Location:Calgary, Alberta