Monday, September 27, 2010

What does the latest AP poll on Obamacare mean?

Maybe that the Republicans need to be careful how they frame the debate. But it's difficult to tell from the scattered news reports and blogs I've found. The big picture is that Obama's job approval is low (nothing new there) and that folks tend to be opposed to Obamacare. But not always for the reasons you might think. Here's where the devil's in the details. Again, you might have to read between the lines of these reports.

A report from The Hill reflects the popular spin:

Voters who say the new health reform law was too conservative outnumber by 2 to 1 those supporting repeal, according to a poll released Saturday.
About 40 percent of respondents said the law was too timid in overhauling the nation's healthcare system, while 20 percent said they'd like to see it scrapped...
Among the other key findings:
30 percent of respondents said they support the legislation; 40 percent oppose it; and the remaining 30 percent declined to weigh in one way or the other.

This ABC News report offers a little more detail (my italics):

The poll found that about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

So if that last phrase in any way reflects the wording of the question, what's really surprising about this survey is that so many respondents (20%) don't think the government should be involved in health care at all.

What about the 40% who thought the law should have done more? What more would they want done? I'm sure there would be a spectrum of opinions with the more left leaning among them wishing we had passed single payer. That wouldn't fly right now, as our culture and our economy wouldn't tolerate it. But Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in the department of social medicine at Harvard and one who opposes Obamacare in favor of a single payer system, expressed a different idea in a recent interview with Martin Samuels. She thinks we should gradually implement a single payer system by just lowering the Medicare age a few years every decade. On its face the idea has some appeal. It's simple and clean in concept. Its gradual implementation would help ease the shock. It would allow time to allow all those nifty cost saving ideas about integrated care and the efficiencies of the EMR to come to fruition. I remain skeptical.

For another take on the poll and an interesting comment thread see this post from Wesley Smith's blog.

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