(For previous posts on the issue of health care, see here.)
The fact that the current US system is broken and needs a complete overhaul with government involvement is becoming increasingly apparent to almost anyone except for those who have some kind of visceral reaction to the government being involved in anything. It is because of the stark reality faced by ordinary people that, despite the incessant propaganda against single payer public plans by the health industry and its allies in Congress and the media, the polls are pretty clear that people favor a greater government involvement in the health care system.
There is a Quinniapiac poll that shows that 69% want a public option.
A recent New York Times poll also finds that 72% favor “the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans.” The poll also found that “most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.”
Meanwhile, as Bernie Horn points out, in another new poll “Eighty-three percent of Americans favor and only 14 percent oppose “creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase” according to EBRI, a conservative business research organization. This flatly contradicts conservatives’ loudest attack against President Obama’s plan to provide quality, affordable health care for all.”
To combat the charge that this was a biased poll funded by single payer supporters, we should note the groups that fund the EBRI (Employee Benefit Research Institute): “EBRI’s biggest donors include: AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Mills, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Northrop Grumman, Schering-Plough, Schwab, T. Rowe Price, UBS Financial, and Wal-Mart. EBRI also receives large contributions from the insurance industry, including: Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA, Hartford, Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts Mutual, Metropolitan Life, Union Labor Life, and UnitedHealth. And who funded this particular EBRI poll? “AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.”
As an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed in 2003, the majority of Americans support a single-payer, government-sponsored health care system, even when they hear the right-wing’s alarmist arguments. David Sirota highlighted some key findings of the poll:
- Question 48 in the poll shows that 79% of Americans say they support “providing health care coverage for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes” over “holding down taxes, even if it means some Americans do not have health care coverage.”
- Question 49 shows 62% say they support a universal health care system “run by the government and financed by taxpayers” over the current system.
- Question 50 shows 57% say they would support this program even “if it limited your own choice of doctors” (which doesn’t necessarily have to be a side-effect of a single-payer system).
- Similarly, question 51 shows 62% say they would support this program even “if it meant there were waiting lists for some non-emergency treatments” (again, not necessarily a side-effect).
So let’s stop talking about “popular opposition” to government involvement in health care. The people who are opposed are the people in the current system who benefit from the sickness of others or have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that involves the government. What they are really scared of is that the public plan will be so popular that everyone will want to join in. Currently estimates of the people who will want to get in can get as high as 119 million, a number suggested by one of the health industry’s main lackeys, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
What the health industry wants is to get their hands on the 50 million or so who are currently uninsured as a new revenue stream. As Robert Parry points out:
The industry’s hope is that the government will mandate that those Americans sign up for private insurance and offer subsidies for those who can’t afford to pay the premiums.
Fifty million new customers and government largesse to help pay the bills would be a huge windfall for the insurance industry, which otherwise faces a decline in its market because Baby Boomers are reaching the age to qualify for Medicare and because rising unemployment is draining the pool of Americans who have insurance through their employers.
So watch for them to make noises about how they support everyone getting insurance, while at the same time fighting any attempt to change the way the current system works because it has proven so profitable for them.
Since they are aware that the public supports the public option, their strategy is likely to be to make the public option as unattractive as possible.
POST SCRIPT: The Chasers are back
That group of Australian pranksters target torture advocates John Yoo and Dick Cheney.
There was a time when the US was a leader in this kind of political guerilla theater, led by people like Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies. I remember being enthralled by their antics even though I was far away in Sri Lanka.
Remember when they ran the pig Pigasus for president in 1968 under the slogan “Pork Power”?
And who can forget the political theater of the trial that followed the violent Democratic convention of that year? See the documentary Chicago 10 for an excellent encapsulation of the comic drama of that tumultuous event.
And what about the time that the irrepressible Hoffman said that they were going, using meditation, to get the Pentagon to levitate and spin, and the media actually arrived to cover that attempt? Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Armies of the Night offered an insider’s look at the 1967 anti-war March on Washington that formed the backdrop.
Has this kind of political street theater become another casualty of outsourcing to other countries?