Slim Majority of Americans Favor a Public Health Insurance Option

Obama and Doctors Most Trusted in Healthcare Debate; Cost Control and Expanded Coverage Equally Important

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Washington, DC – Just over half of Americans (52%) say a public health insurance plan is necessary in order for all Americans to have access to quality healthcare while 44% feel that this can be achieved without creating a public plan, according to a new telephone poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.

When asked to choose, nearly as many say that the primary goal of a national healthcare overhaul should be to extend health insurance to the millions of Americans who now lack it (46%) as say that it should be to rein in the rising costs of healthcare (44%) – suggesting that it is important that both coverage and cost be addressed by the reform.

Support for a public plan may be driven by dominant opinion that it will not drive up the costs or lower the quality of healthcare – and by the perception from a non-negligible proportion of those suffering from chronic and serious conditions that they cannot afford the care they need.

  • Seven in ten (69%) feel that a public health insurance plan would make the overall of healthcare for them and their family at least as affordable as it is now, if not more so.
  • Nearly six in ten (57%) also say that the quality of care under a public plan would not be lower than with current private health insurance plans.
  • In addition, over a quarter (27%) of those who say they or a member of their household suffer from a serious or chronic medical condition report that their current coverage does not provide the appropriate amount of care required for that condition.

When looking at various ways to provide funding so that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, few favor paying for it out of their own pockets, preferring the use of government mandates and subsidies rather than levying taxes.

  • More than two thirds support offering tax breaks or incentives to small businesses so they can provide health insurance to their employees and their families (91%), allowing the government to negotiate for discounts on drugs (71%), requiring that all employers offer health insurance (70%), and requiring that all Americans are enrolled in a health insurance plan (69%).
  • More than half support limiting the amount of damage payments in malpractice law suits (62%) and increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages (59%).
  • However, support is weaker for levying taxes on soft drinks (only 42% support it), creating a national sales tax or value-added tax (32%), and taxing individuals on their employer-provided health insurance contributions (32%).

Among various parties involved in healthcare reform, Americans tend to most trust President Obama and medical practitioners.

  • When asked which one they trust most to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, 26% select Obama and 20% select doctors and other medical practitioners.
  • In contrast, when asked which one they trust least, those most frequently cited are Republicans in Congress (20%) and health insurance companies (19%).

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted July 9-13, 2009. For the survey, a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 1007 adults aged 18 and older across the United States was interviewed by Ipsos. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population in the U.S. been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to U.S. Census figures. Respondents had the option to be interviewed in English or Spanish.

Support for a Public Health Insurance Plan Varies across Demographic Groups

With 23% of Americans saying that someone in their household is currently uninsured, it is no surprise that many Americans want to see coverage extended to all. Yet, as the economic crisis continues, many also fear about the costs it could entail.

While 52% of the general public consider that it is necessary to create a public health insurance plan to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, support for a public option is very strong among African-Americans (80%), Hispanics (71%), those with a household income of less than $25,000 (65%), those who are not employed (64%), adults under 35 (60%), and parents of a child under 18 (59%).

  • In contrast, majorities of those with a household income of $50,000 or more (55%), Midwesterners (50%), full-time workers (51%), and non-Hispanic whites (52%) are of the view that a public plan is not necessary to achieve universal access to quality healthcare.
  • Additionally, there is a strong link between party affiliation and support for the public health insurance plan. Democrats are most likely to say a public plan is needed (74%), while Independents (46%) and especially Republicans (26%) are less inclined to agree.

Perspectives also vary as to the objectives behind the national healthcare overhaul. While Americans overall are split as to whether the goal is to ensure universal coverage (46%) or to rein in the increasing costs of healthcare (44%), some groups are more likely to take one side than the other.

  • Those most likely to say that the healthcare reform should focus on expanding coverage include African-Americans (77%), Hispanics (56%), those with a household income of less than $50,000 (56%), those who are not employed (54%), parents of a child under 18 (53%), those with no college education (52%), and unmarried adults (52%).
  • In contrast, those with a household income of at least $50,000 (56%), full-time workers (53%) and college graduates (50%) are among those most likely to believe the reform should strive to curtail rising costs.
  • While Democrats are more likely to say the plan should endeavor to provide universal coverage (62%), majorities among both Independents (50%) and Republicans (59%) say that the goal of the reform should be curbing the growing cost of healthcare.

Attitudes towards the affordability and quality of care under a new public plan compared with current private health insurance plans also vary along similar demographic lines.

  • While, overall, seven in ten (69%) say that the public plan would make coverage at least as affordable, or more so, this opinion is particularly widespread among those with a household income of less than $25,000 (81%), residents of the Northeast (81%) and retirees (79%).
  • Also, while overall six in ten (57%) feel that the quality of healthcare would be at least as good, if not better than it is with current private insurers, larger proportions of those with a household income of less than $25,000 (74%) and those who are not employed and not retired (66%) hold this opinion.
  • Currently, however, the quality of care is a real concern for many Americans, particularly those dealing with a serious or chronic medical condition. Nearly four in ten (37%) say that they or someone in their household suffers from such a condition, and among them, 27% feel that their current health insurance coverage is not sufficient to receive the appropriate amount of care required for this condition. Among minority respondents dealing with a serious or chronic condition, 44% say their coverage is insufficient.

Who Americans Trust to Expand Healthcare Coverage

Survey respondents most often selected President Obama as the one party they trust most to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare (26%), ahead of doctors and other health practitioners (20%), Democrats in Congress (14%), Republicans in Congress (10%), health insurance companies (9%) and pharmaceutical companies (3%). One in eight volunteered that they do not trust any of these while 5% were unsure.

Conversely, respondents most often selected Republicans in Congress (20%) as the one group or individual they trust least in this regard, followed closely by health insurance companies (19%), pharmaceutical companies (17%), Democrats in Congress (16%), President Obama (14%), and doctors and medical practitioners (6%). Five percent did not select any of these parties as being the one they least trust to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, and 4% were unsure.

  • Hispanics (41%) and African-Americans (40%) are among those most likely to put their trust in President Obama.
  • Democrats tend to most trust Obama (37%) as well as Democrats in Congress (23%) more than even doctors (13%). Republicans most trust health practitioners (28%), followed by Republicans in Congress (23%); just 13% say that they most trust the President to provide universal access to quality healthcare. Independents are more wary; though 24% most trust doctors and 20% most trust Obama, 20% say that they do not trust anyone in this regard.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Clifford Young
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs
312.777.3911
clifford.young@ipsos.com

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. Ipsos Public Affairs is the polling agency of record for The McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper company in the United States and the international polling agency of record for Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-basedmarket research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

In 2008, Ipsos generated global revenues of €979.3 million ($1.34 billion U.S.).

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Slim Majority of Americans Favor a Public Health Insurance Option

Contact

Clifford Young
President, US
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1.202.420.2016
clifford.young@ipsos.com