The details of exactly what the healthcare landscape will look like in the coming years might still be up for debate, but the American people agree that now is the right time for a change, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Menlo Park, California).
In the poll, a majority of the American people want to see some type of change – even given the country's current economic woes. Nearly 61% of the country believes that healthcare reform is one of the most important topics, the poll states.
Problems that have pushed healthcare reform to the forefront in the public's eyes include skipping or delaying care due to costs, with 55% of Americans reporting that they or another member of their household have put off some needed medical care because of cost in the past 12 months.
But cost and paying for reform, which some estimates put at $1.6 trillion throughout the next decade, are where there is the sharpest disagreement.
The poll shows that 54% of the country is not personally willing to pay to expand more coverage. However there is some agreement on few financing options. A narrow majority supports taxing soda (53%) and unhealthy snack foods (55%). Clear majorities support increased taxes on the wealthy (68%), cigarettes (68%) and alcoholic beverages (67%) as a way to pay for a plan.
"With all the talk of inefficiencies in the system and achieving future savings, the public may confuse the potential for long-term savings with the need for short-term outlays and think that health care can be reformed for free," said Kaiser President/CEO Drew Altman. "This could make policymakers' jobs tougher when the price tag for the legislation comes out."
Today's landscape for healthcare is torn and battered. The U.S. spends 50% more on healthcare per capita than any other nation in the world and has far poorer results. Nearly 49 million people are uninsured – and some of that number bogs and chokes down the system – by being unable to pay for treatment.
"It will be important for policymakers to move quickly once there is legislation on the table to get it on the president's desk so that a protracted debate and a 'Harry and Louise'-style ad war do not undermine the high level of public support we see today," Altman said.
The poll cited bipartisian support as one of the toughest areas to achieve consent. It found that nearly 74% of Democrats and 59% of independents said that given the economic condition of the country is healthcare is still important. About 56% of the Republicans in the poll said just the opposite – that the country just isn't in a position to pay for reform at this time.
However, the poll states that Democrats (53%) are willing to pay more for providing coverage, while smaller numbers of independents (38%) and Republicans (29%) say the same.
Other key elements from the poll include:
• A lack of advertisements regarding a health reform plan; only about two in 10 people sampled for the poll saw one.
• Many said that that big business groups (64%), health insurers (62%), drug companies (58%), and doctors groups (54%) are not supporting the president's and Congress' effort to come up with a healthcare reform plan.
• A little more than half polled, about 53%, said that supported limiting future increases in how much doctors and hospitals are paid under Medicare to help pay for health reform. About 56% of those under 65 supported this while only four in 10 (40%) of those 65 or older did.
• Nearly 70% of all that were surveyed said they liked the idea of insurance exchanges – tested with different descriptions – as a way to help people purchase insurance on their own. Exchanges are a key part of the legislation being debated.
The survey was conducted June 1 through June 8 among a nationally representative random sample of 1,205 adults ages 18 and older. The margin of sampling error for the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.