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Poll Shows Growing Anxiety About Health Overhaul

Jul 23, 2009

Most Americans support an overhaul of the health system, but the percentage who believe they (and their family) will be worse off from the change has nearly doubled in the past five months, according to a poll being released today.

The survey, conducted July 7 to July 14 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found 56 percent of Americans say now is the time for the country to overhaul the health system. That’s down from 61 percent in June. The monthly telephone survey of 1,205 adults has a 3 percent margin of error. (note: KHN is a program of Kaiser Family Foundation).

The softening of support for a broad health overhaul mirrors results in other recent polls, including one conducted by Zogby International and released last week. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week showed approval for the way President Obama was handling health reform had slipped to under 50 percent for the first time.

The Kaiser poll found the percent of Americans who thought they would be worse off if health reform passes rose to 21 percent in July, compared to 11 percent in February. The increase was evident in the survey among Democrats, Republicans and independents, although Republicans were more likely to think they would suffer if a health system overhaul is passed.

“This is a significant number and may reflect that some of the attacks are having an effect,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a pro-reform political scientist at the University of North Carolina.

Obama is pushing Congress to pass a bill before the August recess.

“The longer the reform debate goes on, the more time opponents have to raise public anxiety, and we’ve seen that movie before and we don’t want a sequel,” Oberlander said.

The loss of public support was a key factor in President Clinton's failure to get health overhaul through Congress in 1994, he said.

Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said the growing proportion of people who think they will be worse off from health reform reflects the growing attention to the cost of the overhaul which the Congressional Budget Office has pegged at more than $1 trillion over 10 years. “There is a concern about how it will be paid for and with that uncertainty comes worry.”

Nonetheless, a survey released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found about 85 percent of Americans believe health reform is an important part of addressing the nation’s economic crisis.


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