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Public Support for Health Reform Shifts

Karen M. Cheung, July 31, 2009

Although the majority of Americans support healthcare reform, more people are changing their minds as the healthcare debate heats up, according to a new study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health issues research foundation.

More than half (56%) of Americans believe health reform is more important than ever, even in today's economy. The public (two to one) thinks that the country as a whole would be better off if Congress enacts reform now, according to the July Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of more than 1,200 English- and/or Spanish-speaking Americans. Nevertheless, the tide of public opinion is swaying.

"The public wants help with their health care bills and supports health reform, but the hotter the debate and the longer it lasts, the more anxious the public will become," said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman in a Kaiser press release last week.

Shifting tide of public opinion
The study indicates that Americans are changing which box they mentally check: "for" or "nay" on the big "R" word—reform. Public support for health reform is down 5 percentage points from last month, falling from 61% to 56%.

Why the change of minds?

One reason is expenses. Initial reports estimate the healthcare overhaul will costs $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The public splits on the whether the United States can actually afford to pay that price tag for health coverage. Fifty-one percent are willing to open their wallets to pay higher insurance premiums or taxes, while another 44% are not.

Another reason why the public is reconsidering reform may be that they are influenced by advertisements. People report seeing more healthcare reform-related ads now, up 10 percentage points this month, rising from 21% to 31%, and most of the ads are negative.

Americans may also be changing their minds about healthcare reform because they believe such a national change will affect their family. More than half (54%) of Americans have doubts and worries that congressional intervention will be bad for their family. The study indicates that the public's concern about the effects on families is driven by Republican voices, according to the study.

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