Clearing the Field…

Important Field Poll today, on where Californians are on health care. The full poll is here:

What made the news, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, and the San Jose Mercury News was the shift from the same questions asked last December.

In December 2006, 51% of Californians said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with “the way the health care system is working in California.” In August 2007, that number dropped to 27%. Those who were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” went from 44 to 69%.

Skeptics can read the question about “preferences about ways to improve the health care system” that there’s isn’t consensus about how to fix the health care system: one-third (36%) support “a new state government-run system” (getting a big bump from 24% in December), and one-third (33%) support “reform within the framework of current health insurance system… through shared responsibilities” (down from 52% in December.)

First of all, let’s be clear that very few (14%, down from 18% in December) chose the “rely on free market competition” option. Yet that’s the rhetoric of the legislative Republican proposals here in California, and of President Bush nationally.

Second, the poll forced a false choice: From my review of other polling, I think that both the “single-payer” option and the “shared responsibility” options would get higher percentages–in fact, majorities–if the questions were put one at the time.

The false choice is also in the wording. Senator Kuehl has written eloquently about how her single-payer bill is “shared responsibility,” with individuals, employers, and government all paying into a common system, building on current programs like Medicare. And many of those who want to replace the current system would surely support expanding public programs and placing more oversight over insurers.

The Democratic majority in the Legislature has managed to do both, voting this year both for SB840(Kuehl) and AB8(Nunez/Perata). They seem to be representing their state, the combined two-thirds.

In the great health care debate between the YOYO “you’re on your own” free-market proposals and expanding group coverage through public programs, employers, or a universal statewide system, it’s not a close call. There’s a two-thirds majority for reform, for an appropriate government role in the regulation and financing of health care. And Californians’ dissatisfaction with the status quo is growing.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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