Most Americans Want Health Reform but Worry About Costs, Quality

SOURCE: Washington Post-ABC News poll | The Washington Post - June 24, 2009
By Ceci Connolly and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A majority of Americans see government action as critical to controlling runaway health-care costs, but there is broad public anxiety about the potential impact of reform legislation and conflicting views about the types of fixes being proposed on Capitol Hill, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Most respondents are "very concerned" that health-care reform would lead to higher costs, lower quality, fewer choices, a bigger deficit, diminished insurance coverage and more government bureaucracy. About six in 10 are at least somewhat worried about all of these factors, underscoring the challenges for lawmakers as they attempt to restructure the nation's $2.3 trillion health-care system.

Part of the reason so many are nervous about future changes is a fear they may lose what they currently have. More than eight in 10 said they are satisfied with the quality of care they now receive and relatively content with their own current expenses, and worry about future rising costs cuts across party lines and is amplified in the weak economy.

President Obama, in a news conference yesterday, sought to leverage that apprehension.

"Premiums have been doubling every nine years, going up three times faster than wages," he said. "So the notion that somehow we can just keep on doing what we're doing, and that's okay, that's just not true."

Debra Matherne, a 43-year-old lawyer in Pennsylvania, agreed, saying she is contemplating leaving a job she loves because health insurance premiums for her family have jumped to $2,000 a month.

"That's just a crazy figure," she said.

The midday news conference was part of an orchestrated attempt by the White House to draw public attention to the need for landmark health legislation. Earlier in the day, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a report documenting the growing financial burden that medical bills are placing on families.

On Wednesday, Obama will host a health-care meeting with a bipartisan group of governors and later participate in a televised town hall session dedicated to the issue.

Obama also used yesterday's news conference to rebut criticism of one of the more contentious ideas being considered: creation of a government-sponsored health insurance program that would compete with private firms.

Insurers and many Republicans warn that the "public option" included in bills filed in the House and Senate "would dismantle employer-based coverage, significantly increase costs" and add to the federal deficit.

"If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?" Obama said. "That's not logical."

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