Results of a recent Gallup survey show that Americans are divided over what role government should play in health care. While almost 49 percent say that government should provide health care regardless of the cost to taxpayers, 43 percent believe such involvement would be too expensive, according to the telephone poll of 2,000 people conducted last summer for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The poll found people "are torn between the social value they place on equal access to care and the economic reality of paying" for it. Among those who said they would pay higher taxes for expanded health care, nearly half were willing to pay $500 more per year, but fewer than 10 percent would pay an extra $1,000. The poll, a random sample, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

To shed light on reasons for the differing opinions, consumers were divided into six categories:

THE YOUNG & SKEPTICAL -- 15 percent

Well-educated, in their thirties and forties, they are unhappy with the quality of health care. Concerned about costs and support more federal involvement yet oppose most government regulation. THE SELF-RELIANTS -- 15 percent

They tend to be upper-income men in their fifties, politically active, well-educated, strong supporters of American business and adamant that government's role in health care be more restrained. More likely to believe individuals should be responsible for additional spending on health care. THE SECURE & SATISFIED -- 24 percent

In their forties, highly educated and financially secure, this group is happy with their own health care. Strong supporters of a federally funded health insurance program, more willing than most to pay higher taxes to support one. THE PASSIVES -- 13 percent

Less educated and with a median family income as a group of $25,000, they possess a pronounced lack of interest in public affairs and are less satisfied with their health care. Support increased federal spending but are less willing to pay higher taxes. THE COPING BUT CONCERNED -- 18 percent

Primarily adults in their fifties and sixties, relatively secure financially. Strongly believe that government should be responsible for taking care of its citizens but doubt the desirability of a large federal program. THE STRUGGLING SINGLES -- 15 percent

Mostly single mothers in their late thirties who worry about money, they often don't have enough for basic expenses. View government as a source of health care funding they think the nation desperately needs.

Source: BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION, July 1990