WITH THE health care debate entering the home stretch in
Congress, the American public seems as ambivalent as Congress about
the nature and scope of health care reform.
Although a majority of Americans continue to support the
notions of health care reform and universal coverage, large numbers
seem uneasy about the possible increase in government control over
health care and the effects that real reform may have on the middle
Americans interviewed in a new Gallup Poll take a favorable
view of the general concepts expressed in the new bill proposed by
Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and to a lesser extent, those
proposed by Sen. George J. Mitchell, D-Maine.
When described in detail (but without mentioning the names of
the sponsors), the Gephardt plan gets a favorable reaction from 61
percent of adults; the Mitchell plan 48 percent.
But when asked in general terms whether they support the
Democratic leadership health care bills in Congress, only 39
percent of the public say they are in favor of what the leadership
has to offer, while 46 percent oppose their plans, and 50 percent
say they still have not heard of any reform bill that they favor
(15 percent have no opinion).
Most Americans say they would prefer to see Congress deal with
health care reform gradually over several years rather than pass a
detailed health care bill this year (68 percent gradual vs. 28
percent this year).
On balance, Americans seem to believe that they have more to
lose than gain from a major overhaul of the health care system.
Perhaps because such a high percentage report already having health
insurance (88 percent), Americans seem reluctant to risk their
current benefits or to increase the role of government to achieve
When asked which of two possibilities concerns them more, 54
percent fear they could end up with worse coverage than they now
have; only 30 percent are more worried that they could wind up
without health insurance if Congress fails to enact reform.
Similarly, 53 percent say they are more concerned that Congress
will pass a plan that gives government too much control, contrasted
with the 40 percent who are more concerned that Congress will
settle for a plan that does not guarantee health insurance for
One recent strategy employed by the White House to court public
opinion is to define health care reform as primarily a safety net
for the middle class. …