If congressional Democrats think that Americans don’t like the health care bill its leadership has put together, or the process it’s using to push it into law, they’re right. Their leadership is wrong.
A poll conducted this week for the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest-Advance by the Roper organization showed that 65 percent of all Americans regard as unfair the current Democrat proposal to send the Senate health care bill to the president without voting up or down on it.
Democrat leaders are saying that the only thing that matters is passing the bill. From Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:
Do you think any American is going to make the distinction between the process and substance of the bill? I don’t think that any American … any real American out there will make the distinction between the two.
Mr. Hoyer: Americans know the difference between process and substance. And they believe that using the so-called “deeming” process is wrong by a wide margin.
Hoyer only speaks for Democratic leaders when he insists:
In the final analysis what is interesting to the American public is what this bill do for them and their families to make their lives more secure.
But the poll provides no evidence that Democrats will benefit from health care reform once enacted. This claim is based on polling showing broad support for features of the legislation such as insuring people with preexisting conditions and the elimination of caps on coverage limits. But our poll also asked voters about other specific elements of the proposed legislation, and we found that overwhelming majorities opposed key elements:
Eighty percent oppose increasing taxes and cutting Medicare to provide tax breaks and subsidies for people who already have insurance.
Eighty one percent oppose charging healthy and younger people higher premiums to subsidize people who, under the bill, can wait until they are sick to buy insurance.
Nearly 90 percent (87 percent) oppose the creation of Independent Healthcare Payment Advisory Commissions that set limits on future access to care and the authority government will have to determine and what kind of health plans the uninsured can have.
We also asked people about proposals to make health insurance more affordable and approaches to promote better health that are not central elements of the current bill. These include proposals to buy plans that reward healthy behavior, encourage saving and investing for future health needs, and reward future treatments and cures instead of taxing them. Strikingly, voters support these alternatives as strongly as they oppose the main elements of the Democrat health bill.
Almost 84 percent of Americans support reforms that would allow people to buy health insurance where it is the least expensive, such as across state lines. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support health care reforms that would let people buy less costly health plans and save and invest for health care needs in the future on a tax-free basis, while 84 percent would support health care reforms that would let people get lower premiums for getting or staying healthy.
When it comes to reducing costs in the long term, Americans are more favorable to innovation rather then government regulation or taxes. The national poll also found that most Americans do not support increasing Medicare payroll taxes for high wage earners (46 percent support, 47 percent oppose) or reducing what doctors and hospitals are paid for their services (45 percent support, 48 percent oppose). In contrast, 8 in 10 Americans support the idea that more money should be invested in the development of cures for the most devastating diseases.
These findings are the most up-to-date and comprehensive measurement of public opinion on health care policy. They should remind our national leaders that the public is a lot wiser, and cares more about our democratic institutions, than the Democratic leaders arrogantly give us credit for. And it shows that the public does not support the proposed bill in total, or many of its parts. The public knows what the legislation will do, and does not believe, by huge margins, that government should be raising taxes, cutting Medicare, subsidizing people with insurance, or regulating access to care.
At the same time, the poll shows that people do support reforms, though not those included in the bill which may be sent to the president without a vote. The public’s view is best summed up by Ronald Reagan:
Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.
To the extent that the substance and process of health care reform violates this credo, legislators who support both do so without regard to the will or wishes of the American people.