Few believe health care will improve if reform passes

In a new Gallup poll, Americans were asked to assume that health care reform passes Congress this year. If so, would the quality of their health care, or their health care costs, or their health care coverage, or the requirements insurance companies impose on them — would those things get better, stay the same, or get worse?

What's striking about the poll is the small number of Americans who believe their situation would improve under a national health care system. Nineteen percent say the quality of their health care will improve. Twenty-two percent say their health care costs will be lower. Twenty percent say their health care coverage will improve. And 25 percent say the requirements insurance companies impose on them will be less burdensome.

Far more people believe a new system will make things worse. Thirty-nine percent say the quality of their health care will go down. Forty-nine percent say their health care costs will be higher. Thirty-seven percent say their health care coverage will be worse. And 46 percent say the requirements insurance companies impose on them will be worse under a new system.

So in any head-to-head matchup, the number of people who believe things will be worse is far greater than those who believe things will be better.

The battle will be for the people who don't foresee any change in their own situation. Forty percent say the quality of their health care will be unchanged; 27 percent say health care costs will stay the same; 40 percent say health care coverage will be unchanged; and 25 percent say insurance company requirements will stay the same.

If you put together the number of people who believe things will be the same and the number of those who believe things will get worse, you get huge majorities who see no improvement in a new system: 79 percent see no improvement in the quality of health care; 76 percent see no improvement in health care costs; 77 percent see no improvement in health care coverage; and 71 percent see no improvement in insurance company requirements.

On the other hand, if you put together the number of people who believe things will be the same and the number of those who believe things will get better, you get smaller majorities in just two of the categories: 59 percent say the quality of health care will stay the same or get better, and 60 percent say their health care coverage will stay the same or get better. In the other two categories, 49 percent say their health care costs will stay the same or go down, and 50 percent say the burdens insurance companies place on them will stay the same or get better.

It seems unlikely that Obama and the Democrats in Congress will convince many more people that health care legislation will improve their lot. The trick will be to stabilize the number of people who believe a new system won't change their own situation and then use the overwhelming Democratic majorities to muscle legislation through Congress. On the other side, the top priority of opponents will be to target that same group of people: Do they really believe the system could be changed so fundamentally and their own situation would remain the same?
 

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