If You’re Going to Quote Polls, Do It Accurately

I wish I had the proverbial nickel for every time I see advocates of a government-run health plan option cite polls that show an overwhelming majority of Americans support the idea.  Their citation is neither accurate nor timely. 

What they’re usually quoting is a New York Times survey from several weeks ago which asked respondents whether they would like to have the additional choice of a government plan option made available to them.  As I said in an earlier post on this blog, the problem with the Times poll is that it asked no follow-up question to see if that support stayed strong even if respondents knew of potential ramifications of the government plan option.  A Washington Post/ABC News poll did ask those follow-up questions and found that support for a government plan option dropped precipitously when respondents knew more about the issue.

Now, this month, we have a new survey from Rasmussen Reports which shows growing public skepticism about an expanded federal presence in the health insurance marketplace.  This week, Rasmussen found that only 32 percent of Americans favor a single-payer healthcare system in which government provides coverage to everyone, with 57 percent opposing the concept.  There is, of course, concern that a government plan option could lead to a single payer system if the government paid providers at below-market Medicare rates and priced premiums accordingly.

Also, despite the current political campaign to demonize health insurers, 51 percent of voters said they fear the federal government more than they do insurance companies, which 41 percent holding the opposite view.

Policymakers should also note that 48 percent of Americans now say the U.S. healthcare system is good or excellent compared to only 19 percent who give it a poor rating.