Our continuing series examining health care reform proposals, issues, opinions and surveys today takes a look at what the public thinks about the private insurance industry.
And it’s not good news for the big for-profit corporations that are doing their darndest to roadblock meaningful reform. Two recent polls show the public is not buying what the private insurance industry is peddling.
The AFL-CIO has not endorsed a specific plan but has established certain principles around which any plan should be built (click here for more details). One of the key elements must be a public health insurance plan option—such as the one President Obama is proposing as an alternative to private insurance. The insurance companies and right-wingers have teamed up to try to kill such a plan and convince the public it would drive up their costs, limit coverage and leave millions uninsured.
A large majority of those surveyed told Lake Research Partners that a public health insurance plan option might just be the medicine needed to shape up the private, for-profit insurance industry and improve its performance.
The Lake survey found:
- 62 percent of respondents believe a public health insurance plan option would spend less on profits and administration and force private insurers to compete. But only 28 percent believe the insurance industry’s claim that such a plan would be a “big, government bureaucracy.”
- 60 percent believe that if private insurers are really more efficient than government, as they claim, then they wouldn’t have any trouble competing with a public health insurance plan option. Only 23 percent buy the industry’s assertion that a public health insurance option would have an unfair advantage over private plans.
- Only 27 percent believe the claim that a public health insurance option will cause millions of people to be dumped from their private coverage, and just 26 percent believe such a plan will force people into lower-quality care, including rationing and long waits.
Meanwhile, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health shows most people say it’s time for the government to tighten up the rules on how private health insurance companies do business.
One of the major complaints working families have expressed about the private insurance industry is its nearly universal refusal to cover anyone with a “pre-existing condition.” But the Kaiser/Harvard survey found that 72 percent of respondents favor requiring insurance companies to cover those with prior illnesses, even if it means healthier customers have to pay higher premiums.
Also, 65 percent are in favor of a government rule limiting insurance companies’ administrative costs, while 62 percent say the government should cap insurance company profits.
The Kaiser/Harvard findings show that the private, for-profit insurance industry’s years-long campaign to paint a government role in health care reform as a deadly intrusion on the sacred and “efficient” free market—remember “Harry and Louise”—isn’t working like it used to.
The public once may have bought that argument against government regulation, but the tide is turning. A majority, 51 percent, say there is too little government regulation of health care costs, twice as many as say there is too much government regulation. You can bet there will be a ferocious campaign by the private insurance companies and big health care corporations to fight any regulation of costs. We’ve got a lot of work to do to counter that.
Click here to read what a group of small business owners have to say about a public insurance plan option as part of health care reform. Click here to take a look at proposals by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) calling for a single-payer system and recommendations from Health CEOs for Health Reform.
Click here to read about University of California professor Jacob Hacker’s call for creation of a public health care insurance plan as an option for workers and families who either have private insurance coverage or no coverage at all.