Gallup: Majority says not gov’t role to ensure universal health insurance

posted at 10:55 am on November 13, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The push for ObamaCare has certainly had an effect on the debate over the role of government in health insurance and universal coverage, but probably not the one ObamaCare advocates intended.  Gallup conducted its annual poll of adults on that question — and finds that a majority says that it isn’t a federal-government responsibility to provide health insurance to all Americans.  This represents a 44-point swing in three years:

More Americans now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government’s responsibility.

Significant?  I’d say.  In 2006, the survey found a 69%/28% split in favor of it being the federal government’s responsibility, or more than 2-1, the apex for statists on health care.  In 2007 the gap narrowed to 64-33, and when Obama got elected a year ago, it had drifted to 54-41 — still better than Obama’s eventual margin of victory.

Gallup can’t quite put its finger on why things have suddenly changed:

The reason behind this shift is unknown. Certainly the federal government’s role in the nation’s healthcare system has been widely and vigorously debated over the last several months, including much focus on the “public option.” These data suggest that one result of the debate has been a net decrease in Americans’ agreement that ensuring all Americans have healthcare coverage is an appropriate role for the federal government.

They’re ignoring the obvious, probably not deliberately but because they didn’t ask enough follow-up questions to determine it.  People have begun seeing what the bill would be to deliver that kind of system — and not just in dollars and cents.  It has costs in choice, in access, in options for care that only became clear when Democrats rushed to impose such a system on the US.  Before 2008, the question existed almost entirely as an academic one, and people gave a response based on broad concepts and lazy thinking.

Also, Gallup ignores another significant factor.  In late 2007, the economy and unemployment did not look bad at all, and deficit spending was too high but not historically out of the norms of post-war America.  By 2008 that economic picture and deficit problem looked much worse, and in 2009 people have begun to realize that top-down government programs are the problem, not the solution.

One group of people haven’t gotten the message, though:

More than 7 out of 10 Republicans say it is not the responsibility of government to see that all Americans have healthcare coverage, while more than 7 out of 10 Democrats say it is.

Three years ago, the Democratic point of view fell firmly in the mainstream.  Now it’s the fringe, but the Democrats in the Beltway haven’t noticed that the ground has changed under their feet.  A 44-point swing in three years is a sea change, one that will drown the Democrats next year if they try to shove ObamaCare and its mandates down our throats.

Update: Glenn Reynolds says, “Americans seem to be becoming steadily more libertarian. Thank you, Barack!”  You can certainly see that trend among Republicans in this poll.  In 2002, at the height of “compassionate conservatism,” 45% of Republicans thought it was a government responsibility.  Only in the last two years has that number dropped below 38%, and it’s at 21% now.  Gallup did not provide numbers on independents, but I suspect that the same kind of trend has occurred among them as well.

Hopefully, Republicans who adopt the principles of federalism and small-L libertarianism won’t forget them so easily again.

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Annin at 11:29
Does not work: Costs billions, passed on to everyone, most of whom simply fill out their applications honestly. Why can’t our society live with the concept of “honesty”?

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Agreed, but it’s a shame too. People aren’t principled enough, and it takes the near destruction now, of our nation, for people to get it? Truly sad. Wake up people, stay involved, and stay alert.

capejasmine on November 13, 2009 at 11:51 AM

This can been seen in how the word “Idealogue” is used as a pejorative. So if I like to think through my ideas and want to defend them, that is bad how?

WashJeff on November 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM

“Gallup can’t quite put its finger on why things have suddenly changed:”

Gee, ya think maybe it’s the threat of doing jail time if you don’t comply?

Or, maybe most folks simply don’t want their tax dollars being used to murder unborn babies and insuring illegal aliens? Or, it could be the promised Medicare cuts, the expected rationing, or bureaucrats determining your medical procedures instead of your doctor. Perhaps it’s the expense of this entire crap sandwich that’s being shoved down our throats…ya think?

Golly, Gallup can’t put it’s finger on why things have suddenly changed…and I’m running out of fingers trying to count the ways government run health care will be the ruination of our lives!

Barb Dwyer on November 13, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Exactly. My Grandfather retired from Goodyear (non-union) the year Medicare came into being. He would have had a nice little medical plan to cover him and my grandmother that Goodyear provided at a reasonable cost to him, but they took that away cause, hey, he is now covered under Medicare. He had no choice what-so-ever in accepting Medicare.

Johnnyreb on November 13, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Precisely what happened to us except it was Pfizer. Interestingly, the supplemenatal policy, provided by the company, which was supposed to be cost free now costs several hundred a month.

a capella on November 13, 2009 at 12:04 PM

The interesting question of ‘Would Americans Welcome Medicare if it Were Being Proposed in 2009?‘ by Andrew Kohut takes a look at just that question. This question hinges on the trust/distrust of government ratios between the late 1960’s, where trust in government was high, and today, where distrust in government is high. We have seen that the issues of Medicare are: it is too complicated, too costly, does not deliver performance evenly, does not reimburse doctors properly and is prone to high costs beyond what can be forecast by politicians and bureaucrats.

So while majorities do support Medicare, the criticisms of those on it point to the problem of large government programs. Even with general support, the system, itself, is going insolvent and so backing of it is a net drain to the federal government and offers only somewhat lower prices (in comparison with private plans) while putting a number of hurdles, stumbling blocks and legal bureaucracy in the way of those using it. And since it can’t pay for everything, it requires other plans to help supplement it, thus creating confusion between who pays for what.

The anecdotal evidence in my life follows that formula: ‘Yes it is nice, but…’ and from there is the litany of paperwork, lost notices, going around and around with bureaucrats, not getting full reimbursement, having to pay for more insurance, not getting full prescription reimbursement and on and on and on.

Now imagine pushing that system down on everyone.

Where you become a ward of the State and have your healthcare decided by the whimsy of bureaucratic rules and regulations, find the cost expanding beyond what government can do, have multiple hurdles put in your way for simple referrals and prescriptions, don’t have full coverage thus requiring additional plans, paperwork and deconfliction between them…. is it any wonder why people are getting disenchanted with this idea even when such an abysmal system as Medicare gets support? And if you offered tax free medical savings accounts that rolled over year to year, the ability to invest in health care before you needed it, and otherwise treated it as an investment in your future (which it is) via tax breaks that we get for IRAs, plus allows companies to put tax free money into your account for you to manage your medical care… from what we have seen that would get support. Throw in 100% write-off for donations to medical charities, hospitals and so on, and you would see a consumer and public supported system with government subsidies by NOT taking money away from you.

That system would be better than what we have now and be an improvement on what our grandparents and great grandparents had and they never saw people dying in the streets save for the Great Influenza Epidemic. And we can’t handle that latter TODAY and that is WITH government help.

Can’t have that, now, can we? Citizens running their own lives and supporting each other and government helping to make that happen.

ajacksonian on November 13, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Barb: The illegal aliens topic is another “PC” issue. It is astonishing that we have crept to where we are, which is in effect putting them on our welfare rolls. And this matches nicely with Obama and his administration’s desire to pay billions to third world countries as reparations, through the global warming ruse.
As others have written, maybe Americans are waking up.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Let’s be honest here; public opinion – the wishes of their constituents – is NOT what liberals are interested in. They GOT what they wanted; control of all three branches of the government and now they’re going to do just as they damned well please, whether the public likes it or not. So, you can take all the polls you want and publish all of the negative results and it will roll right off their backs in a heartbeat. They simply DON’T CARE. Just listen to them speak. Open wide, folks, they’re shoving it down our throats, no matter what.

GoldenEagle4444 on November 13, 2009 at 12:07 PM

I think the reason the polls have changed is that people are just now starting to understand the question. They used to think that the question was “Should everyone in the United States be entitled to receive health care and should the Federal Government make sure that the poor have a reasonable access too health care also.” People said yes to that.

Now they are starting to realize that the question really was “Should the Federal Government take over health care and run it the same way they run the post office, the DMV, and the public school system while they destroy 1/6th of our economy and bankrupt the nation. That is starting to get a NO.

I predict that, as more people start to catch on, soon it will get a HELL NO!

Lily on November 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Yes, and those earlier generations did not have the “entitlement” mentality drummed into them. Private industry could solve the problems we face, with adjustments as mentioned by others, including real tort reform.
With respect to the radical liberal rejection of what Americans want, consider the fact that the house bill actually throws major benefits to trial lawyers and actually penalizes any state that has ever enacted actual tort reform, with the clear result being to force those states to rescind their prior tort reform laws.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 12:12 PM


Sonosam on November 13, 2009 at 12:14 PM

Hopefully, Republicans who adopt the principles of federalism and small-L libertarianism won’t forget them so easily again.

That’s not federalism you’re seeing, Ed; it’s Obama Derangement Syndrome.

hicsuget on November 13, 2009 at 12:14 PM

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 11:57 AM

I am not addressing whether we should honor it, I am just saying that if you say you aleady paid for it, you are not wholly correct. Also, while I agree that it was promised, and therefore a deal is a deal, that’s not how things work in reality. I was promoised full SSN at age 65, but that was changed, so that now I can’t get it until I am 68. People often have to adjust to reality. Pretty simple fact.

mwdiver on November 13, 2009 at 12:20 PM

I agree that “it is not how things work in reality,” but that in itself is outrageous and should not be tolerated. Why should our representatives operate in a system in which they can lie and in which they do not need to live up to government promises to Americans.
Let’s make our government accept a new reality: Stop lying and live up to your promises.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 12:26 PM

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 12:26 PM

You will get no argument from me.

mwdiver on November 13, 2009 at 12:28 PM

HI [email protected]:53. There are three ways that you can “get back more than you paid in” with Ponzi schemes like Social Security, Medicare, etc. And we paid for them all “upfront”.
The first way is through INFLATION over 4 decades of working. If the money you paid in is “adjusted” for the lack of buying power when you use the money you have taken a hit. Compare house, food, and medical costs at the time your money was confiscated for these programs.
The second way is that you could have made more in INTEREST on a properly managed investment by you. Federal employees pay into a retirement fund that deals only in protected low risk Government backed securities. I get about $2000. a month from Social Security–my retired Federal friends get about $4000. a month from their program. Which would you rather have–$2000. or $4000. a month? You don’t have to be a Rocket Scientist like me to figure this one out!
The third way is by these systems stealing the money they collected when people die before reaching 65 years of age–aka THEFT. Uncle Sam just keeps the money. However, you know something is wrong when they set up Social Security for a 65 year old payout age when life expectancy was 62 years!
HOW MANY WAYS DO I LOVE (to rip you off) THEE–LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!!! (Apologies to the Immortal Bard).
John Bibb

rocketman on November 13, 2009 at 12:33 PM

rocketman on November 13, 2009 at 12:33 PM

I don’t disagree at all. But claiming that you are entitled to it because you paid for it, is still a stretch. No? Tell me you are entitled to it because paid into it or you were prmoised that you would get x amount in the end, regardless of how much you paid in, and I’ll buy that argument. Let’s go back to the car example. You promise me that I will get Car A for X amount, as long as I pay $10 per month toward it for Y years, regardless of how much the car is actually worth after Y years. At the end of Y years, you tell me I can’t have the car for what I paid in. You broke the deal.

mwdiver on November 13, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Quite honestly I think the general population is much like our politicians on an issue like this. Someone says, “How about free health care, universal coverage for all,” and they say “Sure, sounds great!” It’s easy to support something like that when nobody has to worry about actually writing in and implementing the details, to say nothing of paying for them.

But now we have a very leftwing Congress and President, some sort of health care or insurance legislation is a very real possibility, and all of a sudden both citizens and politicians (well, some of them, anyway) see that it’s not so easy, “free” healthcare isn’t really free, and there are very serious, hard decisions that have to be made, and very real costs have to be borne by someone. Not at all surprising that the answers to such polling questions suddenly take on a very different tone.

jwolf on November 13, 2009 at 11:19 AM

Best comment on the thread!

Most Americans are caring, generous people (we donate more to charity, and more foreign aid per capita than any other nation), and when they are asked about “X million people don’t have health insurance and might die if they get sick”, they react, “Oh, that’s horrible, we should DO something about it”, or maybe, “the government should do something about it”.

But when the 85% who do have health insurance, either private or Medicare or Medicaid, are faced with the real possibility of making huge sacrifices to be forced into a one-size-fits-all system run by the Government with a long history of screwing things up, they get scared, for good reason.

It would be interesting to study Gallup’s polling on this issue since Medicare was passed in 1965. Back then, it was part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” program, when people didn’t worry about deficits (Eisenhower had balanced budgets!!!), and the oldest Baby Boomers were starting to work and become taxpayers.

During the Nixon years, Vietnam and Watergate were the major issues of the day, Medicare was paid for by the flood of Baby Boomers in the job market, and nobody worried about health insurance. During the Carter years, the economy tanked, and oil prices, inflation, and interest rates were the main concerns.

During the Reagan and Bush 41 years, a few liberals started grousing about the high cost of health care, but Reagan and Bush 41 had other issues on their plates–getting the economy going, facing down the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein.

During Clinton’s first two years (1993-94) came the HillaryCare proposal, which sounded good when candidate Clinton proposed in 1992, but the public soured on it when the costs and the nuts-and-bolts of the proposal became known.

Republicans took over Congress in 1995, and HillaryCare died. When they tried to simply “reduce the rate of increase” in Medicare costs, they were ferociously rebuked by Democrats and accused of “throwing Grandma off a cliff in a wheelchair”. Proposals for tort reform and state-to-state portability of health insurance were frequently rejected by Democrats, friends of the trial lawyers, one of whom (John Edwards) ran for President in 2000 and 2004.

As long as Republicans controlled Congress and/or the White House, people knew that government-run health insurance would never happen, so they could tell Gallup, “Sure, why not”? But when faced with the real possibility of high costs, loss of benefits, and government-rationed care when a Democrat Congress and President might actually enact it (1993-94 and now), suddenly the American people revolt.

Socialized medicine has always been a pleasant pipe dream, which has led to nightmares everywhere it has been tried. The devil is in the details, and when people study the details, they revolt, which is why Pelosi, Reid, and Co. are trying to keep the details secret.

Steve Z on November 13, 2009 at 12:57 PM

They paid for it in advance. It’s not an entitlement program. It was purchased in advance. It is an earned benefit.

Let’s not argue on this one. It annoys me too much when the elderly are painted as leeches off the system.

AnninCA on November 13, 2009 at 11:19 AM

I’m ascribing no ill intent to Seniors, but there is some pretty serious transfer going on here. First, the program isn’t actuarially balanced across generations; second, it leads to subsidization of Medicare patients by non-Medicare patients at a medical-practice level.

I say we let the Feds come up with a reform-type package (no rescission, no preexisting conditions) and tell the insurance companies they can sell it across state lines if they do so as (spun-off) nonprofits. The Swiss have 80-plus private organizations providing health insurance to their 8 million citizens. Good outcomes, lower rates of medical inflation than here, and the government doesn’t have its thumb up everyone’s backside.

DrSteve on November 13, 2009 at 12:59 PM

I hasten to add a mandate would need to accompany the reform on preexisting conditions.

DrSteve on November 13, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Yes, allowing health plan sales across state lines would be a significant leap forward. That, coupled with meaningful tort reform, would be huge.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 1:03 PM

HI AGAIN [email protected]:44. How could I “break a deal” I had no choice in? My “signing up” for Social Security, Medicare, etc. was like my “signing up” for the U.S. Army in 1964 when I got my draft notice. Ordering me to report for 2 years service or going to jail for 5 years and to pay $10,000 to boot was my “choice”.
And we are going to get the same ability to make a “choice” when ObamaCare is rammed down our throats soon. Enjoy and pay for the C**P SANDWICH–or pay a fine for not liking it. And enjoy the 5 years in prison and $250,000 fine and confiscation of all you have–property, wealth, freedom, better medical care.
Why would anyone of sane mind like this “choice”? Defending my country was necessary–this isn’t.
John Bibb

rocketman on November 13, 2009 at 1:49 PM

You are correct that the deal was forced on you. It is the government that must live up to its promises.
Big trouble, however, as being developed on a different thread: Huge numbers of government workers are union beneficiaries of outrageous government promises about retirement benefits. Letting the cities,counties, and states that made those promises go bankrupt is one fair solution to that problem.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2009 at 2:22 PM