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Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Reform: What People Say

The Presidential Quote “If we do nothing, I can almost guarantee you your premiums will double over the next 10 years, because that’s what they did over the last 10 years,” Mr. Obama said. “It will eat into the possibility of you getting a raise on your job because your employer is going to be looking and saying, ‘I can’t afford to give you a raise because my health care costs just went up 10, 20, 30 percent.’ ” (Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee-Brenan, July 29 2009, New York Times) The Major Concerns
In general, Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll found. The percentage who describe health care costs as a serious threat to the American economy — a central argument made by Mr. Obama — has dropped over the past month. So, now a vigorous advertising and grass-roots effort to shift public opinion is likely in the next month or two. With Congress now almost certain to recess until after Labor Day without floor votes on any specific plan, plentiful advertising and grass-roots effort to shift public opinion is likely in the next month or two. The poll offers hope to both sides. The Poll Findings 1. 69 percent of respondents in the poll said they were concerned that the quality of their own care would decline if the government created a program that covers everyone. 2. 49 percent said they supported fundamental changes, and 33 percent said the health care system needed to be completely rebuilt. 3. 66 percent of respondents were concerned that they might eventually lose their insurance if the government did not create a new health care system, and 80 percent said they were concerned that the percentage of Americans without health care would continue to rise if Congress did not act. 4. By 55 percent to 26 percent, respondents said Mr. Obama had better ideas about how to change health care than Republicans in Congress did. 5. There is overwhelming support for a bipartisan agreement on health care. 6. 59 percent said that President Obama was making an effort to work with Congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent said Republicans were trying to work with him on the issue.

AND, TO ADD TO THE CONFUSION AND CONTROVERSY, THE POLL FOUND

7. 75 percent of respondents said they were concerned that the cost of their own health care would eventually go up if the government DID NOT create a system of providing health care for all Americans. But in another finding, 77 percent said they were concerned that the cost of health care would go up if the government DID create such a system.

The Desires of the People

So, what do the hundreds of millions of Americans with health care coverage really want to hear? They do not want paying for the last 15 percent to deteriorate their coverage or even be rationed.

First, when Washington does anything of such size (20 percent of the economy) that it directly touches the lives of most Americans, they had better be authentically bipartisan. Otherwise, one party will torpedo the other. The system cannot stay more or less intact with no credible effort is made at cutting costs. The reform must be big and sweeping, not just small incremental progress. (Mike Murphy, political strategist)

"Reducing cost and improving quality are equally important to expanding coverage. When too much of the discussion is focused on extension of coverage and the taxes to pay for it, more people peel off from supporting reform." (Mark Penn, “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes.”)

So, any effective campaign for reform must explain (if true) that people with coverage now will experience no change in their ability to have their current plan unless they want change. “No change” is what most people want to hear. And, they want to have this happen without turning the issue into class warfare. Cost, quality and coverage must be addressed as equal concerns.

And, according to Harold Pollack, Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago adds, new policy must "puncture complacency about an unsustainable status quo." Without effective regulation, people have no real way to know good insurance will remain affordable for them and for their employers.

In addition, the plan must reassure nervous seniors who have been told by some that the President would ration care to finance universal coverage by using deep Medicare cuts.

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