Time for Comprehensive Health Care Reform

President Barack Obama made it very clear at the health care summit last Thursday that while he was open to ideas from every quarter, he was not willing to compromise away comprehensive health care reform where extending coverage and serious health insurance market reform are pursued at the same time. Baby steps, as he pointed out, just won’t do. He also pointed out that most of the components of comprehensive health care reform are popular with the public, suggesting that the bills in Congress would fare better if the public actually knew what was in them. Predictably, this claim was greeted with derision by conservatives.

But it turns out the president’s claim is well founded. The latest evidence is in a recent Newsweek poll that first asked respondents whether they supported or opposed Obama’s health care reform plan, then gave them a list of key provisions in the plan, and then asked them again whether they supported Obama’s plan.

Below are the provisions the poll asked about. Six of the eight provisions get majority support with the highest favorability for the health insurance exchanges (81 percent), requiring health insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions (76 percent), and requiring most businesses to offer health insurance to their employees (75 percent). But the poll also asked about two provisions the public did not like: taxing “Cadillac” health plans and fining individuals who refuse to get health insurance. So Newsweek cannot be accused of cherry picking the plan for only those provisions the public would likely favor.

Before respondents heard the list of provisions, they opposed Obama’s health care plan 49-40. After respondents heard the list they switched to 48-43 support. Obama was right: If the public knew what was actually in the comprehensive health care plans being proposed, they would feel more favorably about them.

As the president says, this is no time to turn back on comprehensive health care reform. And you know what? The public agrees. In an early February ABC/Washington Post poll, the public said, by an overwhelming 63-34 margin, that lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan instead of giving up. Amen to that.

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 Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.