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New Poll Revives Senate Support for a Public Health Care Option

June 22, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With the Senate not having the votes to pass a public health care option and the House not having the votes to pass health care reform without including a public option it it, some conservative Senate Democrats began in the past few weeks to look at possible compromises. The most promising concept for a compromise came from Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND]. His proposal for federally-chartered health care co-ops to compete with the traditional insurance companies was warmly received, but a lot of Democrats eventually determined that the co-ops wouldn’t have the resources to compete with the big companies and, therefore, they weren’t a viable substitute for a public option.

CBS News is reporting this morning that the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, Charles Schumer [NY], is ditching Conrad’s co-op idea and whipping his colleagues to shore up support again behind a strong public option:

Emboldened by polls that show public backing for a government health insurance plan, Democrats are moving to make it a politically defining issue in the debate over the future of medical care.

Behind-the-scenes attempts to get a deal with Republicans on nonprofit co-ops as an alternative to a public plan have led only to frustration, complains a key Democrat. He and his colleagues may have to go it alone, said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The co-ops were seen as perhaps the last hope for compromise on a contentious issue that threatens any remaining prospects of bipartisan support for President Obama’s sweeping plan to remake the health care system.

“I don’t think I could say with a straight face that this (co-op proposal) is at all close to a nationwide public option,” Schumer, D-N.Y., told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Right now, this co-op idea doesn’t come close to satisfying anyone who wants a public plan.”

As the article notes, there is a new poll out from CBS and the New York Times on Saturday that shows that Americans are strongly behind a new public health care option. The question asked was, “Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone government administered health insurance plan – something like the Medicare coverage that people over 65 get – that would compete with private health insurance plans?” Seventy-two percent of those polled said they would favor such a plan, while only twenty percent said that they oppose it.

According to the poll, sixty-four percent also think that the government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans and fifty-seven percent would be willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can’t lose no matter what.

Why then, with such overwhelming public support, would there be any hesitation in Congress to pushing through a public option? Paul Krugam thinks its because the Senate numbers this session give Democrats who are willing to oppose their party an opportunity to wield incredible power:

Honestly, I don’t know what these Democrats are trying to achieve. Yes, some of the balking senators receive large campaign contributions from the medical-industrial complex — but who in politics doesn’t? If I had to guess, I’d say that what’s really going on is that relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to run America.
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Comments

  • Anonymous 06/22/2009 10:13am

    They asked 2 times as many Democrats (that voted for Obama) then Repubs.
    Why would you print this story without reading the poll? The American public is about done with stupid reporters that have an agenda!

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 06/22/2009 12:45pm

    I did in fact read the entire poll, and when I read the “who did you vote for part” I was initially surprised to see such a big spread in the answers (48% said Obama, 25% said McCain, 1% said somebody else, 5% didn’t want to say who they voted for, 19% didn’t vote, and 1% said they didn’t know who they voted for).

    Then I thought about it some more and decided that the 5% that didn’t say who they voted for most likely voted for McCain, but didn’t want to say they voted for the candidate that lost. And I also thought that some percent of the people polled probably said they voted for Obama, the winner, even though they actually voted for McCain.

    Anyways, good point that polling data should be considered more thoroughly than how they are reported. That’s why in the article above I linked directly to the full poll data rather than to they NYT or CBS article reporting the results.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 06/22/2009 6:00pm

    Just one more thing on this. This Slate article from a few days has what seems like a pretty plausible explanation:

    “The main explanation for the gap, say pollsters, is people who didn’t vote at all saying they did. These people tend to say they picked the winning candidate. Just look at the Times and Journal polls, where about 80 percent of respondents said they voted in the 2008 election. In fact, turnout was about 61 percent. (A 20 percent gap is pretty standard.) Pollsters attribute the disparity to the social discomfort of having to admit, even to a stranger on the phone, that you didn’t vote. Exacerbating the discomfort is the fact that the question “Who did you vote for?” usually comes at the end of a survey—after you’ve just spent 30 minutes telling the pollster what you think of Obama. What are you going to do, admit you never voted?"

    http://www.slate.com/id/2220803/

  • firbolg 06/22/2009 1:40pm

    I am tired of the misleading pharase “they don’t have the votes”. Everyone in Congress has a vote, they just don’t want to use it to give Americans a decent haealthcare system, happy to enjoy a gold star, exclusive public option themselves while letting the rest of us put up with no insurance or a bloated broken system that ranks 37th in the world because they have bought off by special interests. Open Congress is an ideal site to track each member of the house an dsenate individually and tabulate their position. That at least will tell us what they really mean when they say “we don’t have the votes”.

  • callagan 06/23/2009 4:29am

    Scuse me, Slate, your agenda is showing.

  • Mdepolis 06/23/2009 5:37am

    Hey Firblog, get sick and go to any or all of those 37 countries that supposedly have better health care than we do and see how it works out for you.

    We aren’t paying for this, and the government is not allowed to do this. What do you not understand about this?

    We have the best health care in the world, bar none. A public option will destroy it and relegate to the crap care the rest of the socialized world enjoys. Lastly, if you believe it will be a public “option” you are beyond deluded. Have a public “option” will instantly destroy private health care. Why would employers offer private health care when they can all just say go get the gubmint option?

  • Anonymous 06/23/2009 7:15am

    Funny Mdepolis should ask his question. In Germany, a fellow American re-injured his neck on a job to demolish a building. We were in Germany for two weeks. He had no medical insurance. He went to a hospital in Chemnitz, his neck was examined, scanned, put in a neck brace and got drugs. He had two follow-up physical therapy sessions. He learned new exercises for his neck. He was very satisified with his care. His neck got better. He paid a bill of $132. Germany paid the rest. So, that was how it worked out.

  • Anonymous 06/23/2009 7:15am

    Funny Mdepolis should ask his question. In Germany, a fellow American re-injured his neck on a job to demolish a building. We were in Germany for two weeks. He had no medical insurance. He went to a hospital in Chemnitz, his neck was examined, scanned, put in a neck brace and got drugs. He had two follow-up physical therapy sessions. He learned new exercises for his neck. He was very satisified with his care. His neck got better. He paid a bill of $132. Germany paid the rest. So, that was how it worked out.

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