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Public Support for Reform Legislation Shows Small Rise

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, September 30, 2009

Public support for healthcare reform reversed its slide this summer and climbed slightly in mid-September, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll released Tuesday.

Overall, 57% of 1,203 adults interviewed by telephone said they thought tackling healthcare reform was more important than ever—up from 53% those surveyed in August. The percentage of those who thought that their families would be better off if health reform legislation passed also increased by 6% (from 36% in August to 42% in September), while the percentage who think that the country would be better rose 8% (from 45% to 53%).

However, despite the rise, almost half of those surveyed (47%) favored taking more time to work out a bipartisan approach to health reform, compared to 42% who preferred to see Democrats move faster on their own. At the same time, the public continued to view the action in Washington with mixed feelings: 68% said that they were "hopeful" about reform, while 50% reported being "anxious" and 31% said they were "angry."

While opinions in upcoming months are hard to predict, much of the summer downturn in support was largely erased as individuals' focus "shifted from the town halls and hot button issues to the President, the Congress and the core issues in the legislation that affect people the most," said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.

Those who identified themselves as Republicans and political independents appeared more pessimistic about healthcare reform in August, while those viewpoints changed slightly in September: 49% said in September that their family would be worse off if healthcare reform passed—down from 61% in August. Those who were independents said they would be worse off declined from 36% in August to 26% this month.

On the other side, those who were Democrats remained strongly in favor of addressing healthcare issues now (77%), while most Republicans said that no time could be afforded to do so (63%) while independents are more evenly divided (51% in favor and 44% opposed).

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