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TIME Health-Care Poll: Americans Back Reform, Worry Over Details

4 minute read
Michael Scherer / WASHINGTON

Congressional Democrats and a barnstorming President face deep skepticism from the American public about the details of their effort to change the nation’s health-care system, even as enthusiasm for the prospect of reform remains high, according to a new TIME poll.

By significant margins, survey respondents said they believe the final health-reform legislation is likely to raise health-care costs in the long run (62%), make everything about health care more complicated (65%) and offer less freedom to choose doctors and coverage (56%).

(See 10 health-care-reform players.)

At the same time, survey respondents remain dissatisfied with the current state of health-care delivery and supportive of reform in principle. Forty-six percent of respondents said it was “very important” that Congress and the President pass major health reform in the next few months, and an additional 23% said it was “somewhat important.” Only 28% found the immediate effort either not very or not at all important. In a separate question, more Americans said it would be better to pass “major reform” to health care (55%) rather than “minor adjustments” (43%).

On the details of the plan, respondents remained supportive of many of the rough outlines of the health-reform effort as originally described by President Obama. Sixty-three percent said they would support providing health-care coverage for all Americans, even if the government had to subsidize those who could not afford it. Fifty-six percent said they supported a “public health insurance option” to compete with private plans. Fifty-seven percent support raising taxes on those with annual incomes over $280,000 to pay for the plan. Eighty percent said they would support a bill that required insurance companies to offer coverage to anyone who applies, even those with pre-existing medical conditions. By contrast, a slight plurality of 48% opposed requiring all but the smallest businesses to provide health care, and 56% of Americans opposed taxing employer-provided health care to pay for the cost of covering the nation’s uninsured.

(Watch TIME’s video “Uninsured Again.”)

Obama also retains significantly more credibility with the public than with his Republican foes when it comes to tackling the problem. Asked who they trust to develop new health-care legislation, 47% of respondents said Obama, compared with 32% who said Republicans in Congress. At the same time, Obama received less approval for his handling of health care than for his handling of foreign affairs and the economy. Americans were split evenly, 46% to 46%, when asked if they approved or disapproved of Obama’s handling of health care. By contrast, 58% of the same respondents said they approved his foreign affairs management, while 51% approved of his job on the economy.

(Read an interview with Obama about health care.)

The poll, which was conducted by Abt SRBI, surveyed 1,002 American adults on July 27 and 28. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. Of the polling sample, 23% identified as Republican, 34% identified as Democrat and 32% identified as political independents. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they were currently covered by some kind of health insurance, and of that group 86% said they were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their plan. Only 33% of respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about losing their coverage in the next year.

(See the five biggest hurdles to health-care reform.)

The TIME poll also found that 56% said they approved of the job Obama is doing, and 51% said the country is heading in the right direction. An average of public polls compiled by Pollster.com shows the President’s approval rating at 52%, having steadily declined from 64% at the time of Obama’s Inauguration on Jan. 20. By contrast, the percentage of Americans in the Pollster.com average who see the country heading on the right track has risen from about 27% at the Inauguration to 37% today.

For full poll results, go to SRBI.com.

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