Prescription for Healing Healthcare From the People

by Frank Newport

The average American weighs in on how to fix healthcare

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- There is little question that from the people's perspective healthcare is a top problem facing the country today. When asked to name the most important problem facing the country and what should be the top priority for government today, healthcare, along with a group of domestic issues, is mentioned more frequently than any other issue except for the war in Iraq.

It's clear that when Americans today talk about problems with healthcare, they are mostly referring to the system by which Americans have access to healthcare and pay for it, rather than the ravages of any particular disease. Asked this past November to name the "most urgent health problem facing this country at the present time," half of Americans say it is either cost or access to healthcare. The next most frequently occurring response is cancer, given by 14% of Americans, followed by obesity at 8%.

So what can be done to fix the healthcare system? There is no lack of input in answer to this question, in part because there is so much money involved. Some estimates are that 16% of the economy is spent on healthcare, and that healthcare spending will rise to 4 trillion dollars by 2015.

Players with a connection to this extraordinary flow of money -- doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, businesses -- all mount intense lobbying campaigns to push the system in one way or the other to their benefit. Politicians also jump on the healthcare train in their campaigning, and healthcare already is and will continue to be an important issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

A recent Gallup Panel poll asked American to indicate what they personally felt would be the best way to fix the healthcare system. The question was open-ended, allowing respondents to answer in their own words:

In your view, what is the most important thing that could be done to fix the healthcare system in the U.S. today? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Mar 26-29

%

Have universal coverage/make coverage available to all/assist those who cannot afford it

32

Make it more affordable (non-specific)

13

Improve coverage/have better coverage

4

   

Have government-run system/single-payer/socialized system

12

   

Keep the government out of it/have the private section run it

7

   

Control costs/keep costs down/cap payments

15

Have more controls/regulations on drug companies

8

   

Put a stop to all malpractice lawsuits

3

Promote preventive care/healthier lifestyles

3

Reduce/eliminate paper-work/red tape/bureaucracy

2

Other

3

   

Nothing can be done

2

No opinion

8

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

It can be seen that the largest group of responses deal with expanding coverage to more Americans -- either by making healthcare coverage universal or by making it more affordable. A third of Americans spontaneously mention the idea of universal coverage, making it the single most frequently occurring recommendation.

Twelve percent mention the idea of a government-run healthcare system, while 7% mention just the opposite, that government should not be involved.

Other Americans say that the way to handle the system is to keep costs down and control payments.

There are, as might be expected, some differences in responses to this question by political orientation. This following table lists the top five recommendations for fixing the healthcare system within groups of Americans who identify as Republicans, independents, and Democrats:

In your view, what is the most important thing that could be done to fix the healthcare system in the U.S. today?

 

 

2007 Mar 26-29

Republicans

%

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

18

Control costs/cap payments

15

Make it more affordable

15

Keep government out

13

Government/socialized system

11

   

Independents

 
   

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

34

Control costs/cap payments

15

Make it more affordable

12

Government/socialized system

11

More controls/regulations

10

   

Democrats

 
   

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

42

Control costs/cap payments

16

Government/socialized system

12

Make it more affordable

11

More controls/regulations

10

Note that the interest in universal healthcare coverage is much higher among Democrats and independents than among Republicans, only 18% of whom mention it. Thirteen percent of Republicans say that their No. 1 priority is to keep government out of the system.

In short, it appears that independents and Democrats strongly tilt toward universal healthcare coverage of some type as the way to fix the healthcare problem, but Republicans do not appear to have nearly as dominant a recommendation.

Age is another variable of interest. Older Americans are much more likely to encounter the healthcare system on a regular basis than are younger Americans and therefore may have different opinions than those who are younger.

In your view, what is the most important thing that could be done to fix the healthcare system in the U.S. today?

 

 

2007 Mar 26-29

18-49 yrs

%

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

63

Control costs/cap payments

30

Government/socialized system

26

Make it more affordable

24

More controls/regulations

13

Keep government out

13

   

50-64 yrs

 
   

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

33

Control costs/cap payments

17

Make it more affordable

14

Government/socialized system

12

More controls/regulations

8

   

65+ yrs

 
   

Universal coverage/assist those who can't afford it

34

Control costs/cap payments

12

More controls/regulations

11

Make it more affordable

10

Government/socialized system

9

The singular finding from this analysis is the extraordinary degree to which younger Americans -- those under age 50 -- spontaneously mention universal healthcare as their recommendation. This contrasts to only about a third of those who are 50 or older who mention it.

If the large group of Americans who are under 50 continue to hold these beliefs as they age, and if younger Americans who come of age agree, then it is clear that pressure for universal healthcare coverage may mount as the current population structure ages.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-29, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/27322/Prescription-Healing-Healthcare-From-People.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030