Published July 23, 2009
Americans think the health care reforms being considered on Capitol Hill would increase their taxes and their health care costs, and nearly half think the quality of their health care would decline. Given these sentiments, it's no wonder views are divided over whether Congress should pass health care reform legislation this year or do nothing.
A new FOX News poll finds that while 49 percent want Congress to pass health care legislation this year, about the same number -- 48 percent -- say they want legislators to do nothing on the issue for now.
At the same time, the poll finds 36 percent think Congress is moving too quickly on health care reform, while 30 percent think it is moving not quickly enough and another 30 percent feel the pace of action is about right.
This uncertainty about health care reform is based at least in part on the plan's cost and who will pay. Just over half of Americans (54 percent) think it is unlikely major health care reforms can be passed without increasing the federal deficit and a slightly higher number (60 percent) think it is implausible to do so without raising taxes.
In fact, majorities of Democrats (52 percent), Republicans (69 percent) and independents (61 percent) doubt the reforms can happen without tax increases.
Furthermore, fully 79 percent think if health care legislation is passed they personally will pay more in taxes, 1 percent think their taxes will decrease and 18 percent expect no change. Large majorities of those living in both higher income and lower income households believe their taxes will go up.
Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) think the quality of their family's health care would be worse under the current proposed reforms. That is significantly higher than the number (29 percent) who say they would get better quality health care under the proposed plans. Another 17 percent expect no difference.
Also on the personal level, some 58 percent think health care reforms would cost them money -- that's twice the number who say the reforms would save them money (24 percent).
Another reason for the public's hesitancy in embracing reform is that people are pretty happy with their current health care arrangements, and other issues are seen as more important.
Most Americans say they have health care insurance (91 percent), and a large 84 percent majority rates the quality of their insurance as excellent or good. Moreover, more than 8 in 10 (83 percent) rate the quality of the health care they currently receive as excellent or good. And if they were sick or seriously ill, most people say they would rather be in the current privately-run health care system (64 percent) than in a government-run system (19 percent).
By a wide 64 percentage point margin, Americans say fixing the economy and creating jobs (76 percent) should be a higher priority for the federal government right now than reforming health care (12 percent).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from July 21 to July 22. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
The president gets mixed marks on health care: 43 percent of Americans approve and 45 percent disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing on the issue. In addition, while 43 percent of Americans think the president has a clear plan on health care, a slim 51 percent majority thinks Obama doesn't have a clear plan -- including nearly a third of Democrats (31 percent).
The president's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low of 54 percent, down from 62 percent approval last month (9-10 June 2009). The previous low was 58 percent approval at the end of March. Today 38 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the job the president is doing.
Polling was conducted the night before, as well as the night of the president's prime-time news conference to discuss health care.
Based on their understanding of the situation, by 47 percent to 36 percent the public opposes the reform legislation currently being considered. And by a slim 48 percent to 44 percent margin more Americans say they oppose the creation of a government-run health insurance plan that would compete against private insurance plans.
The number of people who think it is the government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care has dropped to 51 percent -- still a majority, but down from 66 percent earlier this year (17-18 February 2009).
There are two things almost all Americans agree on: They want lawmakers to read the bill before voting on it, and to get the same health care they pass for the rest of the country.
If a government-run health insurance plan is established, 81 percent of Americans think members of Congress and the president should be required to be part of that public plan. Some 15 percent think it would be okay for them to have a separate plan. Democrats (20 percent) are twice as likely as Republicans (9 percent) to say Congress and the president should not have to use the government-run health insurance plan.
And an overwhelming 92 percent majority says members of Congress should be required to read and understand legislation before voting, "even if the bill is thousands of pages long."