A huge shift in public opinion away from government-run health care

This poll actually shocked me, and I think it’s noteworthy enough to post here.   There has been a monumental shift in public opinion away from government-run health care and in favor of maintaining the current system.  Please read the attached before commenting.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

33 thoughts on “A huge shift in public opinion away from government-run health care

  1. In 1965, when Medicare was started, Part A was project to reach an annual cost of $9 BILLION by 1990. In 1990, the actual cost was $66 BILLION. They were off by over 700%.

    When you hear costs of this healthcare plan in the neighborhood of $1 TRILLION, and knowing how pathetic the government’s track record has always been of even being in the ballpark on ANY of their estimates for costs, it is terrifying what they are proposing.

  2. I don’t want the government running our health care. We have have a funny, scary, morbid sort of story. After Mike passed away, the IRS opened 3 investigations in 2005 against a business we did not own in 2005. I turned it over to a Tax CPA colleague of Mikes. She called the IRS agent and were told, “It was none of her business, and none of my business. The only person they wanted to talk to was Mike. They knew he had died, but it did not matter. He was the only one they wanted to talk to.”

    Can you imagine this kind of mind set with something as important as your health? Scary, and I say this as an uninsurable member with some uninsurable kids. I would like for the pre-existing clause to go away and then we should be ok.

  3. “Can you imagine this kind of mind set with something as important as your health?”

    Reminds me of my experiences with insurance companies.

  4. I don’t think Americans are against “social justice” (nice loaded political term, eh?). I think they are just against government running things, because Americans tend to not trust government.

    Wouldn’t it be easier if government were to just give everyone a voucher for basic health insurance? If a patient’s bill of rights was passed, requiring insurance companies to accept all people with a voucher, allowing buying insurance across state lines (for real competition), adding tort reform to keep costs down; and then to have the government fund 50% or more of drug development (with the government retaining rights to those drugs developed); we could have all insured without having a massive government intervention. Those wanting Cadillac insurance could pay more in addition to the basic voucher all receive.

    This would be less costly than the current system, as Medicare is extremely bloated, wasteful and underfunded.

    The thing is, many Republicans would accept a program that encourages the free market, while keeping government intervention to a minimum. And such a program would take care of all citizens in the USA.

  5. Ram,

    Of course it is politically loaded. 1. Justice is a virtue of political institutions. 2. I said it.

    If people would prefer a Republican solution, they best get a lot more Republicans elected to congress.

    TT, you are right (of course). Even the plans with a publci option do not come close to government run health care.

  6. My husband works for the government. It takes 6 months if he’s lucky to buy post it notes for his office. So, I say no thanks to government run healthcare, or government run anything. They are already running healthcare to a large extent and not very well, nice that they create the mess then want to clean it up. Conflict of intrest much?

  7. Another problem with “expanding Medicaid” as is a prominent part of the plans: Increased enrolles does NOT equate with increased care. Two points:

    1) I currently pay between $30-40 per new patient I see in malpractice in case I get sued at some point in that patient’s care. This is around what Medicaid pays for the visit. This doesn’t include costs for my staff, rent, supplies, etc. I lose money for each Medicaid patient I see, so therefore limit them somewhat (but still see them).

    2) A study in Southern California was done a few years ago. A canned script was read about coming back from Mexico the prior day with a kid’s forearm fracture that obviously needed to be set and casted. 50 offices were called. The first time they called (with regular insurance), all 50 offices scheduled them in that week. The second time they called (a month or so later, but with California’s version of Medicaid), 48 out of 50 wouldn’t even see them. One office would see them 3 weeks later. One said their next Medicaid appointment was 7 months out.

    Simply making more people qualify for Medicaid doesn’t do anything.

  8. Clarification – making more people quality for Medicaid DOES do something – it lets politicians feel better about themselves and pat each other on the back.

  9. A pox on all their houses. (Speaking of which, antibiotics did a pretty good job of eradicating that, didn’t it? So, I’ll rephrase: an antibiotic resistant strain of the pox on all their houses!)

    Suggesting that a person’s desire to have the federal government administer payments to doctors and hospitals is a measure of that person’s commitment to social justice is nonsense. But there’s plenty of nonsense to go around in this debate.

    A few nonsensical starting points:

    (1) that doctors and hospitals are an essential part of our well being. For most of us, for most of the time, they just don’t matter. Good diet and appropriate exercise are considerably more important, and focusing on the “repairs” end of the health care spending mess is a mistake. Where’s the “social justice” in reducing everyone’s salary by 20% and sending that money off to the health care cabal?

    (2) that doctors and hospitals will save your life. In the long run, as Keynes said, we’ll all be dead. Huge amounts of money are spent on medical care in the last two years of peoples’ lives. And all those people die. What rational person would choose to spend his own money on a 1 in a 1000 shot at extending life? Not many–but if someone wants to take that gamble, let him do it with his own money.

    (3) that “health insurance” is insurance. Oh, sure, there is an insurance component, but mostly it’s just “prepaid health care.” It makes as much sense to pay for most doctor and hospital bills through an insurance company as it would to go buy groceries insurance, and then submit a claim form after every trip to the grocery store, and have a bunch of folks at the grocery insurance company decide whether you should actually have got the chicken instead of the fish, or the store brand corn flakes instead of the Post Toasties.

    (4) that throwing more money at the health care cabal will somehow reduce costs. We already spend 20% of GNP on “health care” and we’re not getting any healthier, or living any longer. What laws of economics would lead anyone to believe that making more money available to suppliers will somehow reduce the prices charged by those suppliers? Someone needs a lesson in remedial economics.

  10. “Suggesting that a person’s desire to have the federal government administer payments to doctors and hospitals is a measure of that person’s commitment to social justice is nonsense.”

    Mark, you must understand the philosophical literature on social justice better
    than I do. Thinks for informing the us lowly morons with your great wisdom.

  11. The point is, there are a variety of methods to achieve health care for all in the USA. The issue is whether we choose a cost-cutting, effective method; or choose a bloated and wasteful program that we cannot afford in its current form (Medicare/Medicaid)?

    Personally, I would prefer a program like Canada has over what we would get by creating a larger Medicaid program. Why? Because Canada’s is based on a more efficient model. Ours is an ugly step-child that is about to be cloned. And we cannot even afford the first child, much less the second one.

    That said, the best world would provide some basic level of insurance, but keep it on the free market. The current House plan takes $400 billion from Medicare/Medicaid (which it is already unfunded to trillions of dollars), does not deal with tort reform, does not reduce prices for drugs or current medical insurance, and does not increase competition between companies.

    We can do better than that. I agree the Republicans are only offering a few ideas, that while useful in helping reduce costs to the consumer, do not fix the problem, either.

    The Republican plan leaves many without insurance (either by choice or because they cannot afford it), which continues to clog our emergency rooms with non-payers, forcing us to have higher premiums. It also is extremely expensive to the person who suffers a catastrophic medical expense. Bankruptcy is expensive and someone bears the cost of it: the consumer. It would be cheaper to provide a level of protection to all, rather than pay through the nose for those who are not covered.

    But the Democrats’ plan is no better. Yes, it does cover more people, but it risks bankrupting the entire country, which can ill-afford huge expenditures right now.

    We don’t need politicians. We need statesmen, who will look to actually fix the entire system, and not just offer piecemeal feel-good solutions. And both sides are doing just that.

  12. I’m with TT on this one. The question is quite misleading since there is not currently any option on the table for “government-run health care.”

  13. Here’s what the poll actually asked:

    More Americans now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government’s responsibility.

    Gallup has asked this question each November since 2001 as part of the Gallup Poll Social Series, and most recently in its Nov. 5-8 Health and Healthcare survey. There have been some fluctuations from year to year, but this year marks the first time in the history of this trend that less than half of Americans say ensuring healthcare coverage for all is the federal government’s responsibility.

    So, TT and Christopher are technically correct that there is some difference between “government-run health care” (my words) and “health care that is the federal government’s responsibility.” But the larger point remains the same: support for the federal government taking responsibility for health care is decreasing, as is support for government-run health care. Frankly, I am surprised at how quickly public opinion has shifted on this issue.

  14. It would not surprise me that part of the change in attitude is the current context of the question. The unspoken context underneath the question is probably something like: “Now that the government has bailed out the banks and nationalized the automobile industry, should the federal government also make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage?” I think without TARP and the other stimulus actions, a good portion of the people who are now answering “no” are tired of feeling like they have to foot the bill for Other People’s Problems–especially with unemployment now at double-digits and foreclosures still happening at record rates.

  15. “We need statesmen, who will look to actually fix the entire system, and not just offer piecemeal feel-good solutions.”

    Unfortunately, the tiniest baby steps in the direction of statesmanship (on this and many other issues) will get you demagogued into oblivion by the deep pockets of the big money interests who love the status quo.

  16. This seems to align with an increasing political shift among independent voters away from Democrats, and toward Republicans.

    There are numerous things that have led to this shift. Among them are an increasing perception that President Obama in particular and Democratic leadership in Congress are inept, untrustworthy, or both, numerous policy reversals, charges of corruption among administration aoppointees, the failure of the expensive TARP program to prevent a deep recession with its severe job losses, the failure of the auto bailout to prevent bankruptcy of domestic auto companies, and the political tactics of forcing large, complex, and expensive bills through Congress without sufficient scrutiny.

    There are also concerns that the administration’s proposed programs will be ruinously expensive and lead to increased taxation and increased government regulation at all levels of society, neither of which is especially popular.

    Among many independents, charges that political interest groups (both the Republican and the Democratic allied) will and do corrupt the political process for their own benefit lead to an increasing distrust that the Federal government is able to deliver on a promise of “affordable health care for all”. Given the nature of its disabilities, it is not so clear that it should even try.

  17. Confutus, the polling data clearly shows an big turn in independents away from Democratic programs and toward Republican solutions. Independents were the key reason Pres. Obama got elected and the Dems took Congress — things are shifting dramatically the other way among independents now.

    It is worth pointing out that the same thing took place in 1981 (first year of Reagan’s presidency) and 1993 (first year of Clinton’s presidency). In both cases, the presidents involved recovered and went on to win second terms. We’ll see if that happens with Obama.

  18. Possibly, but Reagan and Clinton were both veterans of multiple campaigns, experienced chief executives at the state level, and knew something about how to turn political neutrals into friends and enemies into into neutrals.
    Obama..not so much. Reid and Pelosi aren’t winning much glory for either him or themselves, either.
    Mandatory health insurance may sound like a wonderfully fair idea…until you get the bill, and face a stiff fine or jail unless you pay up, whether you can afford it or not.

  19. “the political tactics of forcing large, complex, and expensive bills through Congress without sufficient scrutiny.”

    Unfortunately, this has been a big problem in congress for many years. It’s why we have an incoherent tax code, and why health care is shaping up to be a dud. Every little grandstanding representative and senator, instead of doing what is in the national interest, insists on as many trivial changes as possible so they can pretend to have done something for their constituents’ interest (or perceived interests). The more histrionic among them, such as Lieberman or Ben Nelson, love to agonize publicly (under the guise of principle) about how many more concessions will be required for their support.

    “big turn in independents away from Democratic programs and toward Republican solutions.”

    Not sure what these are. Remember, the TARP and auto bailouts were Republican (actually, even better for certain kinds of fetishists, bipartisan) initiatives. And Republicans were responsible for the most fiscally irresponsible bill since the 1960s, the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which cost more than any of the current proposals on the table (actually, most of these actually pay for themselves and reduce the deficit). So we have the Republicans in the incoherent position of having voted for a huge unfunded liability earlier in the decade, and now, suddenly (with the exception of Rep. Cao who wasn’t there in 2003) being unable to support bills that the CBO says will lower the deficit.

    Maybe these solutions are found in the last-minute haphazard house Republican bill, prepared so no one could accuse them of having nothing to contribute to the debate. Well, I can get behind the idea to increase competition by allowing buying across state lines, and I’m not even against getting rid of frivolous malpractice suits (although this one is really just a distraction – tort costs are $30 billion a year, a rounding error in the $2 trillion health care system and irrelevant to bending the cost curve). Unfortunately, the Republican plan doesn’t really do much to cover the uninsured.

    I agree, however, that Obama and the Democrats are running into trouble. Many of the popular provisions in the bills don’t take effect for several years, so even if they are successful, elections may have intervened before that becomes clear. And I agree about a mandate — no one wants to be forced to buy a garbage plan from some insurance company that doesn’t cover what you need, and the public plan is set to have all kinds of restrictions on who can join, so that it may end up as a sink for all the otherwise uninsurables, inhibiting it from competing on price, however more efficient it might be.

    I wish the Wyden-Bennett plan had received a little more traction:


    It also has a mandate, but mitigates it with a generous tax deduction. It basically does away with the employer-insurance system, which would provide huge relief to businesses which are currently at a huge competitive disadvantage internationally. Employer insurance is a historical accident anyway and has been distorting incentives ever since the end of WWII. Paradoxically, Obama’s moderation, his fear that parochial Americans will prefer the rotten status quo to the possibility of improvement is now working against him. Instead of bold structural change, Obama preferred incrementalism. (And still he is accused by irrational propagandists of being a radical). Sadly, although Wyden-Bennett has many Republican co-sponsors, this was illusory, as most would not commit to voting for the bill, and so it never really got serious consideration.

  20. The merits of government redistribution programs aside “social justice” isn’t “justice” by any normal definition of the term. Justice is not taking what is not yours.

  21. “Justice is not taking what is not yours.”

    Yes, this is one of the more fatuous statements I’ve seen recently, and from someone who can usually do a lot better.

  22. That is certainly not a complete definition of what justice is, but it is certainly one of the things that justice in any traditional sense of the term entails.

    I am well aware that there is a faction for defining justice in terms of equality of results, instead of the traditional concept of equity. However, like Frederic Bastiat, I believe that the former involves turning the traditional role of government on its head – instead of protecting people from the injustices done to them by others, the government gets into the very business of doing injustice (in the traditional sense of the term) themselves, in a manner which is a complete abuse of sovereign power.

    Democracies historically have not lasted very long, and the reason is that they tend to crumble when the society turns to expropriating ever increasing shares of the labor of others, to the degree that it is more profitable to turn to the government or the courts for additional expropriation from others than to engage in productive endeavors in the first place. The legal system as a state sponsored lottery, for example. The legislature as a dispenser of ill gotten subsidies, largely to those who are hardly poor in the first place. Instead of liberty, federalism, or subsidiarity, micromanagement of the tiniest affairs.

    As Margaret Thatcher said, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. This happens all the time. It is happening right now. Why do you think we are projected to run trillion dollar deficits for the next decade?

  23. Practically everybody now accepts the idea that it is “just” to take some of somebody else’s money and give it to somebody else. I look forward to the day, during the Millennium, when it becomes voluntary again.

  24. Why do you think we are projected to run trillion dollar deficits for the next decade?

    Because Margaret Thatcher failed to root out socialism at home and now it’s spread to the US?

  25. Because Margaret Thatcher failed to root out socialism at home and now it’s spread to the US?

    Margaret Thatcher did indeed fail to do so (not that she expected to succeed). However, enthusiasm for large scale redistributive or collectivist enterprises of the compulsory sort goes back at least a century in the United States, to the start of the Progressive era.

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