Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New AP healthcare polls

Recent polls on healthcare show how divorced from actual public opinion a lot of Washington legislators are -- especially Republicans. It also shows some evidence of (possibly intentional) "push polling."

First of all, the public has long supported not just a "Public Option" but full-fledged Single Payer -- i.e. a totally government-operated healthcare system. Of course our representatives have never allowed that to be an option -- they clearly know better what's good for us. When people read about it, it makes sense, but it doesn't make sense to the insurance industry.
A recent AP poll shows that a good majority of Americans support healthcare reform, especially the House version. However, it reports that those who already have healthcare don't want to have to pay more, and would oppose plans that would make them do so. Here is where the "push polling" comes in.

Push polling is the technique of asking questions that may suggest points of view to the person being polled; it is usually done in phony polls by groups with an agenda to "push". A classic example is a telephone poll conducted by supporters of candidate A who ask: "What would you think of candidate B if you heard that she sent regular e-mails to Osama Bin Laden?" You get the idea. Well, the AP poll asked people whether they would still support a healthcare plan if it would make their premiums go up. This suggests that raising premiums is a likely result of healthcare reform. This is simply not necessarily the case, but the issue is complicated, and phrasing the question this way gives opponents of healthcare reform more ammunition to fight it.

Everyone who has insurance is paying a lot for healthcare now. The idiots who say "Just go to the Emergency Room" are suggesting that ER care is somehow free. It isn't, and everyone who pays taxes or insurance premiums is picking up the tab for this particularly inefficient and expensive form of treatment. In addition, people tend not to realize until it is too late that the healthcare that they are paying so much for now is likely to offer very much less coverage than they think. Many folks have all sorts of caps and exclusions written into the fine print of their policies that have proven to be financially disastrous when serious illness strikes. Almost all of these insurance company scams would be illegal under the health plans being considered by Congress. The AP poll, of course, makes no mention of this.

Another AP poll released today said that people would be happy to tax the rich to pay for healthcare. The party of the rich, the GOP, will undoubtedly ignore this, or find some way to spin it. The Democrats should run with it, but they have such a cowardly history of being red-baited that they are basically afraid of real populism or "class warfare" as the rich like to put it. If they don't mount a spirited offensive, building on this popular sentiment, they will once again be outtalked and outpropagandized by the voices of Big Insurance and Big Pharma.

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