Public Warms Up to Health Care Reform

The president’s speech on September 9, the presentation of a specific plan (finally) by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, and some vigorous pushback by progressives against conservative antihealth care reform hysteria has moved public sentiments about health care reform in a positive direction. Across multiple polls, a consistent pattern of increased support exists for Obama’s handling of health care and for the health care plans before Congress. This pattern can be seen in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, where Obama’s approval rating on health care increased by 4 points and support for health care legislation rose by 3 points.

The poll also found that 89 percent felt either that “requiring that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions” absolutely must be included in health care legislation (63 percent) or that they would prefer that it be included (26 percent).

Also, 63 percent felt either that “requiring that all but the smallest employers provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured” must be included in legislation (26 percent) or that they would prefer that it be included (37 percent). And 53 percent felt either that “creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies” must be included in legislation (26 percent) or that they would prefer that it be included (27 percent).

In the same poll there is a very interesting finding that highlights how fed up people are with the current system. The public, by a 45-39 margin, said “it would be better to pass Barack Obama’s health care plan and make its changes to the health care system” rather than it would be better “to not pass this plan and keep the current health care system.”

This support for Obama’s plan comes despite the public uncertainties about the plan that conservatives have so assiduously cultivated. Health care reform still has a difficult road ahead but things are looking brighter.

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.