Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are Americans really that satisfied with health care?

Is this true?

"Everyone likes the idea of reform, but most Americans remain quite satisfied with the quality and accessibility of their own health care, and very worried about policies that would impair that quality or access."

It's a quote from today's column by William Kristol in the Washington Post. He urges Republicans to start focusing on the vulnerabilities of the Obama Administration. It's worth reading, even if you voted for Obama, just to see what sort of advice the Republicans are getting.

But I was curious - is his statement really true - that most people are "quite satisfied with the quality and accessibility of their own health care?" He doesn't cite a particular poll - so I'm wondering which one he's thinking about. There is this CNN poll, that finds 8/10 Americans satisfied with their health care. Three quarters of the sample also judge the cost of health care in this country to be too expensive.

This 2003 ABC poll finds that "most Americans, or 54 percent, are now dissatisfied with the overall quality of health care in the United States — the first majority in three polls since 1993, and up 10 points since 2000." Did health care really improve that much since 2003? To be honest, I didn't think that health care reform was much of a priority for the Bush Administration. Perhaps I was distracted by the screams of prisoners being tortured.

In a Harris Interactive/Health Day poll earlier this year, half of the 2,491 adults surveyed said they either "strongly" or "somewhat" supported the president's plan to overhaul health care. Twenty-nine percent said they were still not sure about the plan, and 20 percent expressed opposition to the Obama proposals. And in June 2005 the Lake Snell Perry Mermin poll found that 27 percent picked rising health care costs as their top economic concern. The other concerns were wages not keeping up with costs (18 percent), a secure retirement (14 percent), higher taxes (12 percent ), and rising gas prices (9 percent).

I know that poll results have much to do with how questions are worded. At a gut level, I question Kristol's assumption that most Americans are "quite satisfied" with their health care. I wonder about this statement especially now that so many have lost employer-provided health care benefits during this recession.

Which polls is Kristol reading?