Friday, October 30, 2009

Public option and public perception

ABC News reports that according to its latest poll, more Americans prefer a health reform bill with a public option and no Republican support than a bill without a public option that attracts Republican support.

It's not surprising that more people would care about results than about process. And a majority does support a public option when that term is adequately defined within the question (as it is in the ABC/WaPo's basic question about the public option). Nonetheless, I suspect that many may not have precisely understood this particular question. Here's the wording:
"Which of these would you prefer – (a plan that includes some form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance, but is approved without support from Republicans in Congress); or (a plan that is approved with support from Republicans in Congress, but does not include any form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance)?"
How many of those who prefer "a plan with some form of government-sponsored health insurance..." fully grasp that the bipartisan alternative would provide government-subsidized access to private insurance in a government-structured exchange that retails plans with government-mandated minimum coverage terms?

I'm all in favor of the public option myself, because I think that for-profit health insurance is a travesty and that government monopsony (control over the pricing of services) is the only way to control costs and guarantee uniform coverage. But I don't think this poll question gets across the benefits that would remain available in a reform bill with no public option.

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