The Obama Administration’s health care reform agenda is stalled, but still alive. But there is a huge change. Last year, Congressional leaders wanted the thousands of pages of complex legislation enacted before the August recess. It was urgent, they insisted, thousands were losing their coverage daily. Now, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled a 180-degree in his quest to ramrod a massive health care bill through Congress this year. Telling reporters this week that “we’re not on health care now,” Reid gave this telling quote: “There is no rush.”
The big change is that public opinion, especially when registered at the ballot box, is consequential. American voters will hold Congress accountable for imposing on them laws and rules and regulations that they do not want, while attempting to takeover one-sixth of the nation’s economy. Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s win corresponds with what many opinion polls have shown — that the public doesn’t want Washington securing more power of their health care decisions and dollars.
Liberals in Congress and elsewhere are getting desperate. Proof of that is an attempt to create an alternative reality. For example, leftwing spokesmen are asserting, through a new poll that Americans really want do federal bureaucrats running our health care system (via a government-run health insurance plan or “public option”). But even those assertions fall flat in the face of mounting evidence from Pew Research Center, Gallup and Rasmussen Reports that says otherwise.
For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tracking poll this month found that public support for the health care proposals being discussed in Congress is divided at best, with 42 percent favoring and 41 percent opposing. The poll found for the first time in a year that more Americans (33 percent) thought they’d be worse off if health reform passed than those who thought they would be better off (32 percent).
Some of the findings are curious. For example, while 53 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to support health care reform if there is a public option, only 38 percent were on board for a basic benefits package defined by the government. It is hard to imagine a public option that would not have a government-defined health benefits program. Moreover, House and Senate bills would have the federal government set benefits for “private health plans” as well.
How provisions like the public option are explained to the public matters. In another survey conducted last October, Kaiser found that 57 percent of respondents said they favored the creation of a “government-administered public health insurance option” but that support dips to 32 percent when initial supporters were told that such plans “could give the government plan an unfair advantage over private insurance companies.”
And make no mistake: There is no doubt that a government-run health plan — with taxpayers bearing the insurance risk — would have an unfair advantage in the insurance market. Ultimately, it would become the only option for consumers.
The same opinion phenomenon occurs with individual mandate, proposed taxpayer-funding of abortion services or other parts of the health legislation. In both bills, the key provisions would centralize health-care decision-making powers in Washington. When voters start learning more about provisions in the House and Senate bills and what they would do to the health care sector, support drops dramatically.
That’s why Americans are putting the brakes on Congress’ frenzied deal-making at their personal expense and legislative antics. They want reform but the majority of Americans want lawmakers to take a breath and start with smaller pieces that can garner real bipartisan support for targeted, common-sense reforms that enhance, not undercut, personal choice and competition.