Americans Want Health Care Overhaul

(CBS)
Health care reform has been a priority for President Obama, who promised to make significant changes to the country's health care system while campaigning for the presidency. It is also a high priority for Americans; in a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in April 2009, it was cited as the most important domestic issue facing the country other than the economy.

Most Americans think health care needs no less than a major overhaul. A late April CBS News/New York Times Poll found 49% of the public saying it had some good elements but needed fundamental changes, and another 38% felt there is so much wrong with it that it needs to be completely rebuilt. Just 12% thought it works pretty well and only minor changes are necessary. Americans have expressed similar views since the early 1990s, when the question was first asked by the CBS News Poll.

U.S. HEALTHCARE SYSTEM NEEDS:
(CBS News/New York Times Poll, April 2009)
12% Minor changes
49% Fundamental changes
38% Rebuilding

Criticism of the current health care system is non-partisan, shared by Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

The lack of universal health care is considered the more serious problem. When asked to choose between lowering the cost of health care and providing heath insurance to those without it, an early April 2009 CBS News/New York Times Poll found 54% chose providing insurance to all as the more serious problem, and 40% chose keeping costs down. Perhaps because of the recession, the latter had increased since 2007, from 31%. Nearly six in 10 Americans were very concerned about future health care costs they might face.

(CBS)

U.S. health care priorities are viewed through a partisan lens; 57% of Republicans chose keeping costs down, and 69% of Democrats opted for providing insurance to those who don't have it.

One of the more interesting findings in polling on health care is the gap between Americans' assessments of the country's health care system and their own health care. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll conducted in March 2009 found 52% of Americans saying they were satisfied with their own health care costs, including insurance premiums and other expenses. But when asked about health care costs in this country more generally, just 23% were satisfied. That gap in evaluations has occurred in many polls conducted on the subject over the years.

A CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in 2007 found a similar trend in evaluations of health care cost and quality. Just 38% were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of health care in this country, but twice as many, 77%, were similarly satisfied with the quality of their own care. The data showed an even larger gap in assessments of the cost of health care (and the percentages were much lower); just 14% were satisfied with the cost of health care in the U.S., while 43% were satisfied with their own costs.

SATISFACTION WITH QUALITY OF HEALTH CARE IN U.S.
(CBS News/New York Times Poll, February 2007)
11% Very satisfied
27% Somewhat satisfied
29% Somewhat dissatisfied
28% Very dissatisfied
5% Don't know/No answer


SATISFACTION WITH OWN QUALITY OF HEALTH CARE
(CBS News/New York Times Poll, February 2007)
41% Very satisfied
36% Somewhat satisfied
8% Somewhat dissatisfied
12% Very dissatisfied
3% Don't know/No answer


SATISFACTION WITH COST OF HEALTH CARE IN U.S.
(CBS News/New York Times Poll, February 2007)
3% Very satisfied
11% Somewhat satisfied
22% Somewhat dissatisfied
59% Very dissatisfied
5% Don't know/No answer


SATISFACTION WITH OWN COST OF HEALTH CARE
(CBS News/New York Times Poll, February 2007)
20% Very satisfied
23% Somewhat satisfied
19% Somewhat dissatisfied
33% Very dissatisfied
5% Don't know/No answer

Americans have some doubts about the President's ability to enact change on this issue. While an April 2009 CBS News/New York Times Poll found two thirds of the public saying it was likely President Obama would be able to bring about significant health care reform in his first term, just 16% thought it very likely. (This April poll was conducted before President Obama met with business leaders from the health care industry earlier this week and announced they would work to significantly lower health care costs.)

Few Americans expect change to come quickly to the health care system. Earlier this year, a CBS News/New York Times Poll asked the public how long they thought it would take the Obama Administration to make real progress on providing affordable health care to all Americans. 35% thought it would take a year or two, another 20% said four years, 18% thought it would take more than four years, and 22% thought he won't be able to.



Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.
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    Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys.

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