Public Holding Steady on Key Elements of Health Care Reform

In the last month, the public’s view of Congress’ health care reform efforts has certainly darkened. But it’s striking how little change there has been in the public’s view of the basic elements of health care reform as articulated by President Barack Obama and progressives. These essentials of health care reform remain not just popular, but very popular. Consider these data from the just-released August edition of the Kaiser Health Care Tracking poll.

In the poll, 68 percent favor “requiring all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with financial help for those who can’t afford it.” One month ago, the figure in the Kaiser tracking poll was an identical 68 percent. Similarly, 70 percent favor “offering tax credits to help people buy private health insurance,” which is actually up a point from July’s 69 percent. And 68 percent favor “requiring employers to offer health insurance to their workers or pay money into a government fund that will pay to cover those without insurance,” up 4 points from July’s 64 percent.

Finally, what about the public health insurance option that conservatives have attacked mercilessly and about which there has been so much controversy? Surely here the public has been scared away from their previous level of support. Nope. In the Kaiser poll, 59 percent favor “creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans,” exactly the same as July’s 59 percent.

It’s also worth noting that the public remains hopeful about the health care reform efforts in Washington (63 to 36 percent in the Kaiser poll). Perhaps that’s because the public knows that somewhere in that legislative logjam in Congress, the basic elements of health care reform as outlined above are still alive. Let’s hope Congress keeps health care reform on track and doesn’t disappoint them.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Culture page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.