Survey: You don’t hate healthcare reform as much as you think

Policy analysts seem to agree:  There isn’t a great way for opponents of the law overhauling the American healthcare system to repeal the package, but there are at least ways for opponents to pull funding for critical pieces of the legislation.

The question some experts pose is, from a policy and political standpoint, Why would you want to?

Granted, for politicians who deal in absolutes, selling “nuanced” benefits of a gigantic piece of legislation likely to cost more than $1 trillion is really tough.  But Ryan Barker, a policy analyst with the Missouri Foundation for Health, says polling suggests that people hate the idea of healthcare reform more than they hate the specifics of the law itself.

I spoke to Barker for KBIA’s Talking Politics this week, and the show didn’t dig into the numbers of what is a really illuminating survey as much as I would’ve liked. So here’s how the survey worked:

The poll started out by asking “Do you favor or oppose health reform?”  54 percent opposed it, 30 percent favored it, and 16 percent were undecided.  But then, the poll dug into details.

“Throughout the poll, we asked questions about components of reform,” Barker explained, “and dug into some of the details and asked people at the very end we asked people, ‘Now that you’ve heard about some of the components of reform, what do you feel about it?”

After hearing about 20 different specifics of the law and getting opinions on each, more people opposed it than supported it — but not as many.  The breakdown after hearing the specifics is 49 percent oppose the law, 41 percent support, and 9 percent undecided.

The survey also shows huge support for many key provisions of the law.

“There wasn’t any component that we tested out of probably 20 components that a majority didn’t favor,” Barker said.

To name a few…

  • “Allow Individuals To Keep Their Current Health Care Plans” — 68 percent strongly favor, 90 percent total favor
  • “Require Insurance Plans To Cover Preventative Care” — 65 percent strongly favor, 86 percent total favor
  • “Give Small Businesses Tax Credits” to Buy Health Coverage — 62 percent strongly favor, 86 percent total favor
  • “Make It Illegal To Deny Care Based on Pre-existing Condition” — 56 percent strongly favor, 71 percent total favor

In my interview with Barker, I put it to him that there was a lot of legitimate concern that the healthcare overhaul didn’t do enough to control costs, and instead focused too heavily on insurance reform.  I only included part of his answer on air, but I thought it was an interesting policy take:

“There’s a lot of rhetoric out there that it doesn’t do anything to address costs,” Barker told me, “and really it’s a little more nuanced than that.  We don’t know exactly how to control costs in healthcare.  There’s a lot in this legislation that does try to get at costs, but it’s like pilot projects and demonstration projects and different payment mechanisms.  What the legislation does is test a whole bunch of ways of controlling costs.  I think it I think what they were hoping for was to test a whole bunch of different ways and find something that works.”

(I also spoke with Karen Edison, the director of MU’s Center for Health Policy.  Find her full interview below Barker’s here.)

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