This morning, I spoke on a panel reacting to a new health care poll conducted by Zogby International in conjunction with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. While John Zogby and Ward Casscells of the University of Texas saw the results as offering a way forward on health care, along with other panelists, I felt that it actually showed why we can expect more gridlock.
Like other polls, the Zogby results suggest that Americans like some of the individual components of the legislation — covering those with preexisting conditions, preventing insurers from dropping coverage when people get sick, creating health insurance exchanges, etc. But at the same time, about 80 percent of people were at least somewhat satisfied with their current insurance, and were unwilling to accept the tradeoffs necessary to achieve the measures they support.
For instance, asked how much money in higher taxes they’d be willing to pay so that everybody can gain health coverage, the most popular response was “zero” — which was the answer of about 43 percent. Just 12 percent said they’d be willing to pay more than $500 a year in extra taxes. In addition, less than 17 percent supported cutting Medicare as a way to pay for the legislation, and under 19 percent favored requiring people to purchase insurance (necessary if you’re going to force insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions). Of course, as we all know, the Democratic health care bills are financed by raising taxes and cutting Medicare, and include an individual mandate.
So it isn’t surprising that the poll showed that Americans opposed the health care legislation by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin. More tellingly, the intensity was on the side of the opponents, with 43 percent saying they “strongly oppose” the bill compared to just 20 percent who say they “strongly support” it.
None of the members of the panel thought that a comprehensive health care bill would pass this year. (Other than me, the panel included the Hill‘s Jeffrey Young, Slate‘s Tim Noah and Tom Scully, who helmed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Bush and helped pass the prescription drug benefit).
UPDATE: Here is Young on the poll. He notes that most Americans say that Congress should start over.