Has the Battle for Public Opinion Been Lost?

There’s an important op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post, written by two prominent Democratic pollsters, Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen, who did polling for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, respectively.  On a day when the White House is making the case that public opinion is shifting in the direction of its health reform proposal – and allies like Paul Krugman of the New York Times are echoing that message – Caddell and Schoen argue that the battle for hearts and minds has already been lost.

They wrote:

“…a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan.  Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly.  Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit.”

Caddell and Schoen make the point that it’s still possible to salvage health reform this year, but only if Congress will put the current bills on the shelf and bring together new, centrist legislation merging Democratic and Republican proposals.  As they wrote, “It is not a question of starting over but of taking the best of both parties and presenting that as representative of what we need to do to achieve meaningful reform.”

We share that view at the Healthcare Leadership Council.  It’s critical that ideological and political battles not be allowed to derail essential health reform.  A successful reform bill is still achievable this year if lawmakers would focus on those areas that do have bipartisan support – providing subsidies to help low-income Americans afford coverage, delivery and payment reforms to emphasize value, quality and cost-effectiveness and investments in wellness and prevention.

Following this route might even win back the support of the American people.